Microalgae protein developments – the future of alternative meat?

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The discovery of a new microalgae protein that can be produced in seven days, and the launch of a plant-based ‘meat’ containing euglena and chlorella microalgae extracts suggest that this innovative branch of the biotech industry could have a bright future.

After ten years, US$15.75 million in research and 20,000+ microbes evaluated, Smallfood Inc – a Canadian, microbial-based ingredient company – claims to have discovered a unique strain of microalgae that produces a new, more perfect protein that can sustainably solve the current food production challenge around the world.

It says its microalgae-based solutions deliver non-GMO alternative protein concentrates and isolates with amino acid profiles rivalling animal-based proteins. Unlike traditional animal and plant-based protein sources, commercial volumes of the microalgae protein can be produced in just seven days with Smallfood’s proprietary biomass fermentation technology, which requires minimal land, water and energy resources.

There is an incredible diversity of microbes spanning the entire planet so discovering one that produced the right type of protein for today’s demanding food industry was no simple feat,” said founder & CEO, Marc St-Onge.Determined, we ventured to the uncharted depths of the ocean to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. And now we have developed the process and technology that enables this discovery to come to market.”

As reported by Emergen Research, the alternative protein market is estimated to reach US$3.89 billion by 2027 (Emergen Research, September 2020, The Global Alternative Protein Market Report). And according to the Good Food Institute, fermentation technology is a key trend that will help fuel the expansion of alternative proteins in 2021 (Good Food Institute, January 2021, The Top Alternative Protein Trends to Watch in 2021).

“Our proprietary technology coupled with the incredible efficiency of our micro-organism yields a stellar protein ingredient to leading human nutrition companies, helping them achieve their sustainability objectives,” added Joe Agnew, chief strategy officer. “In addition, Smallfood is the 1st licensed cellular aquaculture company in Canada – something the entire team is incredibly proud of achieving.”

Meanwhile, alternative meat startup Next Meats Co Ltd and microalgae biotech company euglena Co have launched ‘NEXT Euglena Yakiniku EX’, a plant-based meat containing euglena and chlorella extract, both of which are types of microalgae.

The product is available for pre-sale at the official online store of Next Meats (Japan only), following the signing of a joint product development agreement in December 2020 between the two Japanese companies, which aims to offer consumers more sustainable diet options and lifestyle choices.

NEXT Euglena Yakiniku EX

NEXT Euglena Yakiniku EX [Image source: nextmeats.jp]

NEXT Euglena Yakiniku EX’ contains 500mg of Euglena and 500mg of Chlorella extract. Next Meats describes the new product as a plant-based meat packed with protein and a good balance of other vital vitamins and minerals, with no artificial additives and zero cholesterol (no animal-derived materials are used), while also noting the new product significantly reduces environmental impact compared with regular meat.

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