Algae as a Functional Food Ingredient: 4 Things to Know

(DGIwire) – In the quest for an ever-greater share of the consumer market, a host of food manufacturers have found that functional foods hold a special appeal. As they evaluate the potential value functional foods may add to their product lineups, marketers should consider what algae-based ingredients offer, according to a recent article in FoodDIVE written by Andrew Dahl, President and CEO of ZIVO Bioscience, a biotech/agtech R&D company engaged in the commercialization of nutritional and medicinal products derived from proprietary algal strains. Here are four points to ponder:

  • A single species with dozens of strains. Algae can be manipulated to deliver a wide range of nutritional and functional properties, writes Dahl; for example, if a manufacturer is looking to market a product that contains a relatively high percentage of beta carotene, this property can be naturally selected using the appropriate strain of a single algal species.
  • Growing opportunities for innovation. Manufacturers, Dahl reports, are limited only by their imaginations when it comes to possible algae solutions. Many applications have yet to be explored, and there is still plenty of room for growth. The global production capacity for algal biomass has not kept up with demand, which continues to steadily increase.
  • Algae can be environmentally friendly. Pond-grown algal biomass is essentially powered by the sun, is sustainable and renewable, and does not rely on excessive energy consumption. Certain strains of algae do not require herbicides, pesticides or special chemicals to make them viable, Dahl notes. Algae also easily sequesters two pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of algae produced.
  • Research companies are solving technical challenges. Manufacturers may encounter technical hurdles when incorporating algal biomass into their new products. Several companies, such as ZIVO, are working with different processing protocols and product formulations. Over time, Dahl writes, as production methods are established, the cost efficiency of cultivating algae is likely to increase.

ZIVO’s algal strain can be spray-dried, belt-dried, drum-dried or freeze-dried depending on a product’s formulation requirement, ranging from a fine powder for better mixing properties to a flaked form that looks and blends like pesto, parsley flakes or dried seaweed. Once approved for use, the algal biomass can be grown by contracted cultivators and shipped to licensed drying facilities. From there, it would be shipped to formulators, for use as a protein-enhancing food ingredient, a dietary supplement or a vegan beverage ingredient.

“The functional food market is driven by product innovation and first-to-market priorities,” Dahl says. “In this environment, algae could be a strong contender.”

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