Noblegen unveils vegan whole egg replacement featuring protein from ‘ancient micro-organism’ Euglena gracilis

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

'the egg' can make a great scramble, but also performs well in cakes, quiches, pancakes, and other products, claims Noblegen. Picture: Noblegen
'the egg' can make a great scramble, but also performs well in cakes, quiches, pancakes, and other products, claims Noblegen. Picture: Noblegen

Related tags: Noblegen, Microbial fermentation, Algae, Protein, plant-based

Canadian startup Noblegen has unveiled ‘the egg’ - its first consumer product under the eunite brand showcasing the ‘ancient microorganism’ euglena gracilis, which it claims can produce proteins with exciting functional and nutritional characteristics... without using genetic engineering.

A combination of euglena flour, pea protein, methylcellulose, gellan gum, black salt, onion powder, nutritional yeast, rosemary extract and mixed tocopherols, ‘the egg​’​ - sold in powdered form - can make a great scramble, but also performs well in baking applications (chocolate cake), quiches, pancakes, and other products, founder Adam Noble told FoodNavigator-USA.

"This has the functionality - the foaming, binding, emulsification, water holding and so on - but also the nutrition people are looking for from egg replacements. It has 6g protein per serving and it works as well in applications such as a vegan chocolate cake, as it does in a scramble."

Like fellow startup Perfect Day - which recently sold a limited edition ice cream​ via its website in order to raise awareness of its ‘animal-free’ dairy proteins – Noblegen​ is looking to raise consumer awareness and get feedback about ‘the egg,’ which is available for purchase on its website ​but should be in a wider range of retailers over time, said Noble.

"We want to demonstrate what our ingredients can do to food manufacturers and foodservice companies, and releasing CPG products ​[on a small scale] is a great way to get consumer feedback and validation."

Further iterations of 'the egg' could also have an even shorter, cleaner, ingredients list, he said.

Euglena has a PDCAAS score of 0.96-1.00

Other products in the eunite pipeline can replicate dairy and meat proteins, utilizing the unique properties of euglena, which has the metabolic capacity of both animals and plants, and can produce proteins that are similar from a nutrition and functionality standpoint to animal proteins, ​although they are "not identical from a peptide sequence standpoint​,” ​he explained.

Euglena has a PDCAAS score of 0.96-1.00, which is very unusual for a non-animal protein​. It doesn't have the chalky mouthfeel or granular qualities of some plant proteins, its more like the proteins you find in egg or milk.

"I'm not able to say too much now, but the meat analog and dairy analog angle will be the most exciting things coming out of the pipeline."

Euglena (pronounced ‘you-glee-nuh’) is a single celled micro-organism naturally rich in protein, beta-glucan, oil, vitamins, and minerals with a unique ability to express properties of plants and animals.

'It’s a kind of hybrid between a yeast and an algae'

Noblegen​​​​ has been able to coax Euglena gracilis​​ – “a protist that could also be classified as an algae​​” – into producing everything from palm oil replacements and beta-glucan to proteins via a proprietary technique called ‘facilitated expression’ that doesn’t involve genetic engineering.

“It’s a kind of hybrid between a yeast and an algae. It doesn’t have a cell wall like a plant and it can grow without light like an animal,” ​said Noble.

“The scalability, the low cost, the sustainability, the nutritional strength of the products… it’s something the market has never been seen before.”

noblegen-the-egg
Ingredients: Pea protein, protein-rich flour (euglena), methylcellulose, gellan gum, black salt, onion powder (organic), nutritional yeast, rosemary extract and mixed tocopherol blend (to maintain freshness).

'The holy grail in the food industry right now'

He added: "To have a complete protein from a Non GMO source that’s certified vegan but can mimic animal protein is really the holy grail in the food industry right now​… What’s important to our commercialization partners is that the food industry and certification bodies consider it as a plant-based vegan source of ingredients… a non-animal source.”

Noblegen recently raised $25m CAD in a Series B round, and is now using the cash to hire more staff, scale up production capacity at its facility in Peterborough, Ontario (just outside of Toronto), and form commercial partnerships to take its products to market.

The company has secured self-determined GRAS status for its protein-rich euglena flour and will be notifying the FDA of this determination. 

Read more about Noblegen HERE​.

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