San Francisco-based microalgae specialist Solazyme - which posted a net loss of $39.7m on revenues up 66% to $17.6m in the third quarter - saw its shares plummet this week after admitting that progress at its new oils and lubricants facility in Moema in Brazil has been “mixed”.
However, production of AlgaVia food ingredients at its fermentation facility in Peoria, Illinois, is going well, said CEO Jonathan Wolfson, with eight products containing the lipid-rich whole algal flour now on the market, and the first products containing the whole algal protein likely to hit shelves in Q4.
We continue to see new customer interest in our AlgaVia foods business
He said: “We continue to see new customer interest in our AlgaVia foods business. With a full North American distribution network now in place for the powdered food ingredients, we're happy to report that we have signed and are fulfilling initial supply agreements for both our AlgaVia protein and AlgaVia lipid powder products.
“Looking forward, a number of the high-value oils we're working on have important application potential in nutrition. These include very low saturate [high] oleic [acid] oils, medium chain triglycerides and structuring fats such as SOS and cocoa butter equivalents. We're allocating most of our food oil development resources in these areas.”
AlgaVia whole algal flour - which is 52% fat, 19% fiber, 6% protein, 2% moisture, 3% ash/micronutrients, 1% simple sugar, and 17% other carbohydrates - is pale yellow with a creamy mouth-feel. It can be used to replace dairy fats, vegetable oils and egg yolks in everything from ice cream to cookies, cakes, dressings, chocolate milk and pasta sauce, helping firms slash saturated fat, total fat, calories and cholesterol.
AlgaVia whole algal protein - which is 65% protein - is a richer yellow color. It has a nutty taste similar to crushed pistachios and has attracted interest from companies making beverages, powdered beverages, sauces, sports nutrition products, savory snacks, breads and cereals, says the firm.
But the biggest game-changer in the food space could be Solazyme’s yet-to-be commercialized high-oleic oil, which scooped an innovation award at the IFT show this year. Unique in the food space with an unprecedented amount (c. 90%) of monounsaturated fat (oleic acid), 6-8% saturates and less than 2% poly-unsaturates, it is ultra-stable, and could be used as a food ingredient or a frying oil, says the company.
The fermentation process
To produce the AlgaVia products, frozen microalgae is thawed and used to inoculate a flask containing a broth rich in simple sugars and other nutrients, which the microalgae convert into high value oils or protein-rich whole food ingredients.
The mixture is then transferred into progressively larger vats until the desired volume is reached. Temperature, pH, agitation and aeration rates are controlled throughout the process, and when the batch is ready, the fermentation broth is harvested, concentrated, washed and/or disrupted, and then dried.
The chlorella microalgae strain used to make the AlgaVia flours and proteins is not genetically engineered. However, for customers concerned about genetically engineered corn ingredients in the fermentation process, Solazyme can switch feed stocks to non-GM sugar cane or other materials.
As for the high oleic oil and structured fats (‘algal butter’) next in the commercialization pipeline, these cannot be efficiently produced in native algae strains, so Solazyme uses genetic engineering techniques (eg. introducing genes from safflower, or inhibiting the production of certain enzymes in order to get more of the oil components it wants and fewer of those it doesn’t) in order to make precisely tailored oils with unique functionality.
Click on the link below to see the gallery from FoodNavigator-USA's recent trip to Solazyme's HQ in San Francisco.