From sea to plate: Climate-resilient functional algae can elevate dairy & desserts
30 Aug 2021 --- Seaweed has a long history of being used as food in various parts of the world. Indeed, consumer perception of seaweed has been reinforced as it’s commonly hailed as highly nutritious, thanks to the many healthy nutrients it contains. FoodIngredientsFirst dives further into the algae arena and speaks to players who share their insights on industry innovation.
“Consumers are familiar with seaweed and view products from the ocean as trendy and healthy,” says Xavier Martin, global product manager for seaweed extracts, Cargill Sweeteners, Starches and Texturizers.
“This reinforces ingredient suppliers’ investment in R&D efforts to produce proteins, fibers, texturants and more from seaweed.”
According to Martin, two significant trends are driving developments in the algae area.
“The first revolves around consumers’ label expectations for food and beverage products. From our 2021 Ingredient Tracker consumer research, we know that today’s shoppers have a keen interest in how their food is made and where it comes from,” he outlines.
Consumers are seeking out products made with recognizable ingredients that they view as “minimally processed.”
“Where conventional seaweed extract additives like carrageenans and alginates may be unfamiliar to consumers, functional seaweed ingredients can simply align well with today’s consumer trends.”
Texturizers, gels & thickeners
Currently, many F&B manufacturers are looking at plant-based ingredients to replace controversial or animal-based texturizing agents or additives such as gelatin or cellulose in nearly all of their formulations.
Cargill’s WavePure ADG specialty seaweed powder is touted by Martin as “versatile from a functional perspective,” offering excellent gelling and thickening properties that make it especially suited for dairy desserts.
Combining its label-friendly appeal and functionality makes WavePure a great alternative to other ingredients that may have similar properties but are less familiar to consumers like gellan gum, agar, carrageenan or gelatin, he explains.
According to Algaia, a French biomarine ingredients company, alginates are an excellent alternative to texturizing options as they are “extremely versatile.”
“They adapt to a great variety of food matrices and processes. Indeed, Algaia has just conducted promising pilot trials for processed cheese with a new range of alginates, and we currently have over 20 projects in our pipeline for either meat or cheese analogs,” says Frédéric Faure, CEO of Algaia.
Moreover, algae can open up “outstanding encapsulation opportunities” for different compounds that are not overly present in our diets, such as probiotics or specific vitamins.
“On top of that, they boost the fiber content of the food product. For instance, Algaia is currently focusing on micro-beads of active compounds in fermented food and drinks with success,” adds Fabien Canivet, application team leader at the company.
As an ancient organism at the bottom of the food chain, microalgae contain nutrients essential for our health, nourishment, continued survival and hold the keys to longevity, says Solabia – Algatech Nutrition, an Israel-based business specializing in microalgae cultivation.
“Microalgae represent an active ingredient resource of great interest due to their protein content, amino acids, carbohydrates, as well as lipids, vitamins and trace elements that could be beneficial for humans and animals,” Liat Shemesh, marketing manager at Solabia – Algatech Nutrition.
Transparency and clean label products are becoming increasingly popular. The consumer wants to know more about the company behind the product and wants natural, less processed ingredients.
“For us, environmentally friendly and sustainable components are not a trend but a vision and a way of life. We believe in responsible production with zero negative impact on nature.”
Solabia-Algatech Nutritions’ manufacturing process is fully sustainable, relying on solar power and a comprehensive water recycling platform.
“The microalgae cultivation displaces no crops, utilizes carbon dioxide, and creates only oxygen as waste. It is a genuine ecological crop,” Shemesh affirms.
A blue economy
Algae and seaweed ingredients also support the “blue economy,” which promotes economic growth and improves livelihoods while ensuring the environmental sustainability of oceans and coastal areas, Martin at Cargill flags.
Seaweed farmed in the ocean does not require fertilizers or pesticides, nor does it place additional stress on potable water supplies or arable land. In this regard, seaweed production is at far less risk to the impacts of a changing climate than other land-based crops.
“Addressing climate change and its consequences to seaweed production are key priorities for the industry overall,” notes Martin.
Cargill is investigating ways to further valorize the seaweed plant, such as co-products and bio-refinery applications, to utilize the entire resource more holistically.
“Other efforts center on improving our processing technology, with a focus on sustainability,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jacques Mazoyer, principal scientist and scientific innovation specialist, Cargill Sweeteners, Starches and Texturizers, discusses how Cargill is partnering with seaweed producers, suppliers and other industry stakeholders to develop new farming solutions and search for more climate-resilient strains.
“This includes supporting efforts to develop seaweed production in Europe while always keeping sustainability at the forefront,” he explains.
Faure at Algaia also adds how working with a raw material produced locally, with a traceable origin, not using pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation water or cultivation land to grow, is a tremendous asset for algae ingredients.
Notably, seaweed-sourced products are also gaining ground in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. In this space, the driving trends center on the growing demand for sustainably sourced, nature-derived ingredients.
COVID-19 boosts interest
Cargill’s consumer research suggests that COVID-19 has reinforced trends that were already on consumers’ minds.
“One of the more relevant and possibly more lasting effects is that many consumers appear to be even more sensitive to sustainability issues and concerned with how foods are sourced and produced,” details Martin at Cargill.
Cargill will continue to explore opportunities to extend its WavePure range of seaweed powder solutions within the food ingredients space, tapping into the rich diversity of other seaweed species to bring formulators label-friendly ingredients with additional functionalities.
“At the same time, we’re investigating ways to further valorize the seaweed plant, such as co-products and bio-refinery applications, to utilize the entire resource more holistically,” continues Martin.
“Other efforts center on improving our processing technology, with a focus on sustainability. In this regard, we’re working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all our production facilities, including our seaweed processing centers,” he concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.