SUBSCRIBE

Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North AmericaEU edition | APAC edition

Trends > IFT Show

TerraVia CEO: Thrive culinary algae oil could be a sizeable consumer brand

By Elaine Watson+

05-Aug-2016
Last updated on 05-Aug-2016 at 06:37 GMT2016-08-05T06:37:12Z

TerraVia CEO talks algae at IFT: We have disruptive products

TerraVia – formerly known as Solazyme – has been telling reporters (and investors) that algae is the next big thing in food for years. But when will it really start to change the game?

You don’t change the food system overnight, says CEO Jonathan Wolfson, who has been trying to translate all that promise into cold hard cash for almost 14 years, although the strategic decision to focus exclusively on food, feed and personal care (rather than biofuel/industrial products) was only made in 2016.

But TerraVia’s portfolio is undeniably disruptive, and leading food and beverage companies are finally sitting up and taking notice, he told FoodNavigator-USA at the IFT show in Chicago last month.

Video not loading? Watch it on YouTube instead!

Thrive Culinary Algae Oil could be a very large consumer brand 

We began by asking whether Thrive Culinary Algae Oil, TerraVia’s first consumer brand in the food arena, was chiefly designed as a sideline to demonstrate to prospective b2b customers that people are OK with eating algae, or whether it could be a significant consumer brand in its own right?

There’s no doubt that having a consumer-facing brand helps to bring industrial ingredients to life, said Wolfson, but after a successful launch on the west coast, it quickly became clear that Thrive was doing more than that.

With Thrive, we really had two missions. One was to animate algae food for people so they could really grasp it. The number of times we’ve walked into a room with chefs and started to talk about algae oil and they didn’t quite get it, and then we could pull out a bottle of Thrive, that’s actually selling in stores down the street ,and let them take it home and cook with, and all of a sudden lightbulbs go off…

“But we also believe Thrive has the opportunity to be a very large brand [in its own right]. We’ve only been in the market for eight or nine months and we’ve see very rapid acceptance; we had a phenomenal test market in southern California that’s now expanded to about  four to five retailers and we’re going to be  announcing some larger retailers soon. If you look on Amazon, it’s a five star product and people really love it.”

The mother of all plants

Consumers, he said, are not put off by ‘algae’ on a food label. Quite the opposite “We’ve done a whole lot of consumer work with respect to algae. With no education we’ve seen a better than 50% rate of acceptance and with just one or two sentences of education you get up into the 90s, so that now you have companies advertising algae on the label as a pull.”

The weird thing about algae is that it is both incredibly-old, and completely new, he said. And while it can be hard to weave a farm to fork style marketing story around something that is grown indoors in big fermenters, Thrive's success shows consumers are comfortable with it.

“You explain that algae is the mother of all plants; it’s earth’s original superfood and it’s always been there at the base of our food chain; we’ve just found a way to bring it to people.”

AlgaVia powders and AlgaWise oils

TerraVia's algae ingredients – whole algae lipid powers, protein powders under the AlaVia brand, and high-oleic oils under the AlgaWise brand – meanwhile, are now “in about 10 aisles of the grocery store today,” he said.  

“We’re not in 100s of products yet, but we’re certainly in many dozens, and some of them actually are pretty high volume … the number of products from big food companies that are coming in at a later stage now is really exciting to me.

“The lipid powder is truly unique cos of its ability to replace things like eggs and butter… but it also has its barrier to entry as people have to find out how to use it, whereas with the proteins and oils, people [immediately] understand how to use them.”

Algae ‘butter’

Algae ‘butter’ meanwhile, which will hit the market shortly, is also a more straightforward ingredient to sell as a replacement for cocoa butter or shea butter in applications where certain properties (melting profiles etc) are required, he said, while TerraVia is also able customize its hard fats in order to meet specific technical requirements for different applications or customers, he added.

Changing the food system

As for changing the food system, something every self-respecting food/tech start-up apparently wants to do these days, TerraVia acknowledged the success of Hampton Creek, which could just have been another egg replacement firm, but has an almost cult-like following because it positioned itself as a mission-driven company intent on changing the food system.

However, TerraVia - which is also based in San Francisco - is in slightly different territory because it is developing completely new-to-the world ingredients, he argued.

When you talk about changing the food system, I think about a table with four legs:

“We’re feeding more people with the same land and we can make more oil per hectare and more protein per hectare than any other plants out there. Then you look at environmental impact, so for example we can make oil with a lower carbon impact than any oil out there.

“The third leg is nutrition, our oil is completely disruptive and our powders are much healthier than what they are replacing. The fourth leg is economic accessibility, and that’s what spending the last almost 14 years on building the manufacturing has enabled; you can get cost in use improvements using our products.

“And sitting on the table top is amazing taste and texture.”

Related products

Manufacturers navigate greenwashing allegations

Manufacturers walk tightrope between demand for natural products and greenwashing allegations

Today’s consumers want products that are natural, sustainable and environmentally friendly, but manufacturers hoping...

Crunchies targets Millennial moms with freeze-dried fruits

Crunchies targets Millennial moms as fruit & veggie snacking gathers pace

If freeze-dried fruit conjures up images of space food, or brightly colored soggy bits...

Annie's sales set to reach $400m in fiscal 2017

Annie’s president: ‘Over the last two years we’ve added four million new households each year’

While some commentators baulked at the $820m General Mills parted with to get its...

CPG accelerator SKU blends mentorship & networking to help startups succeed

CPG accelerator SKU blends mentorship & networking to help startups succeed

Starting and growing a company is hard – especially in the highly competitive food...

Three tips for selling internationally-inspired, authentic products to Americans from industry veteran

Three tips for selling internationally-inspired, authentic products to Americans from industry veteran

Americans may be becoming more adventurous in what they eat – seeking international flavors...

Hip Chick Farms expands its portfolio

Hip Chick Farms expands its portfolio of clean, simple poultry & other frozen foods

McDonalds, Panera and other high profile food service companies took notable steps last year...

Rising animal welfare concerns push farmers & manufacturers to rethink humane agriculture

Rising animal welfare concerns push farmers & manufacturers to rethink humane agriculture

As animal welfare concerns become increasingly mainstream, farmers and manufacturers, such as the natural...

Synbio ingredients have vast market penetration, new list shows

Synbio ingredients have vast market penetration, new list shows

Synthetic biology, or GMO 2.0 as some are calling it, has vastly more penetration...

Expo West feedback 'overwhelmingly positive' for banana brittle

Barnana CMO: 'We tested banana brittle for eight months before we took it to market'

Barnana carved out virgin territory in the healthy snacks segment with its chewy banana...

Kite Hill weighs into plant ‘milk’ debate at Expo West

Kite Hill weighs into plant ‘milk’ debate: ‘Do electric cars not get to call themselves cars because they don’t have a combustion engine?’

An electric vehicle uses a very different propulsion system to the internal combustion engine,...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Top marketing strategies for natural products

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Clean label 2.0 and other top marketing strategies for natural products

When it comes to marketing products in the natural channel it seems like there...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The opportunity for medicinal mushrooms

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The rising opportunity for mushrooms in food and beverage

Growing awareness of the powerful health benefits of mushrooms as well as increasing demand...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Certified Transitional Organic

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Certified Transitional helps conventional farms make the switch to organic

Despite organic’s strong appeal with double-digit year-over-year growth since the early 1990s, and the...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: A closer look at protein’s rise to popularity and where it is headed

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: A closer look at protein’s rise to popularity and where it is headed

Americans’ love affair with protein shows no signs of cooling in the coming years...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Paid influencers make big impact with small budget in hot sauce category

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Paid influencers make big impact with small budget in hot sauce category

From restaurants’ fixation with ghost peppers to the presence of sriracha on dining tables...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast Countering the impact of climate change on coffee

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Countering the impact of climate change on coffee

Every year more people wake up to coffee or use it to fuel them...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Separating fact from fiction with probiotics

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Separating fact from fiction when formulating with probiotics

Once restricted to a handful of products, such as yogurt, probiotics are enjoying unprecedented...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast:marketing potential of home shopping television

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The marketing potential of home shopping television

Home shopping television easily might be overshadowed by food and beverage companies’ growing interest...

Soup-To-Nuts podcast: How doing good can also be good for business

Soup-To-Nuts podcast: How doing good can also be good for business

In today’s highly competitive landscape, many food and beverage manufacturers try to set their...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Using food influencers to market products

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How to select and best use food influencers to market products

While Americans are becoming more adventurous in what they eat, they often still need...

Key Industry Events

 

Access all events listing

Our events, Shows & Conferences...