Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the 2015 IFT show in Chicago, Solazyme SVP Mark Brooks said that most cooking oils come from crops that are planted on vast tracts of agricultural land (and in the case of palm oil, sometimes in places that might be better left alone, like rainforests), fed and watered, and then harvested months later.
It’s truly revolutionary
By contrast, Solazyme’s algae oil is produced from algae grown in fermentation tanks (that could be located neared to the end consumer rather than thousands of miles away), and is ready to harvest in days, meaning it can effectively be made to order – a completely novel concept in the edible oils market.
“It’s truly revolutionary, that we can take what is a normal crop cycle and compress that into three days,” said Brooks.
“We can dislocate the production of that oil from a tropical climate to the middle of Iowa in winter [where Solazyme’s algae oils are produced] and make an oil that is more nutritious and more stable.”
The flavor of the oil is very neutral, very light
But what many visitors to the Solazyme booth at the IFT show liked most was the flavor, said Brooks: “The flavor is very neutral, very light, so it allows the flavor of the food to really punch through, so the food can speak for itself…"
It also opens up new possibilities for formulators, he said: “This is the only oil that can get you a mayonnaise with zero sat fat, and you can also take out the EDTA as we have such low polyunsaturated fat, we don’t need the preservatives.”
Solazyme’s algae oil cannot be efficiently produced in native algae strains, so Solazyme uses genetic engineering techniques to make precisely tailored oils with unique functionality, explained Brooks.
However, there are no GMOs in the final AlgaWise oils, which are made from an oil-generating algae strain (originally discovered in the sap of chestnut tree in Germany) that has been genetically engineered to increase its productivity, he said.
“So we use technology to achieve the benefits … we can use biotechnology to go in and take algae as a precursor to all plant life, go down to a descendant plant, find a gene we’re looking for - say in a sunflower - and bring it back to mother algae to express the highest level of monounsaturated fats, or the lowest level of saturates.”
Encouraging consumer feedback
As algae oil is a new concept for shoppers, Solazyme has conducted extensive research to determine what consumers make of the oils, and whether they might buy products containing then, said Brooks.
“What we’ve done is talk to over 5,000 consumers on behalf of our customers across eight countries, to ask, ‘If you [consumers] find out that we [eg. food manufacturers/foodservice companies] are using algae oil, what happens to your purchase intent?’
“And when they find out about algae and nutrition, the purchase intent goes up.”
Meanwhile, 98% of healthy oil purchasers sent samples for at-home testing reported it had a ‘pleasant or no aftertaste’, 87% agreed it had a ‘cleaner taste than other cooking oils’, and 93% said they would recommend it to friends and family, he said.
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Read more about the algae oils HERE.