essie Rack reports for NPR that demand for plant protein of all types is growing in concert with the growing interest in the U.S. to reduce meat consumption. People, from vegans to flexitarians to Meatless Monday dabblers, are substituting vegetables for meat.
“(Product) developers realize we need to broaden our protein horizons and are on the hunt for alternative protein sources,” Camilla Stice, a food and nutrition research analyst at the tech strategy firm Lux Research Inc., told The Salt.
Vegetable proteins are especially attractive, because consumers accept them more than other trendy protein alternatives, like insects.
Boosters say that algae has nutritional advantages that make it stand out. Microalgae is 50 to 60 percent protein, but unlike many soy protein products, where the protein has been isolated from the plant, microalgae is generally used as a whole-food ingredient and retains more than just protein. Nutrients vary by strain, but can include fat, fiber, vitamins A, B, C and E; and minerals.
A handful of microalgae species, Spirulina or Chlorella in particular, also show promise as a natural superfood. Both Spirulina and Chlorella have been used as dietary supplements and in food products, and both are relatively easy to grow.
Chlorella is the microalgae of choice for Solazyme’s AlgaVia microalgae powder for use in cooking, baking and smoothies. Mark Brooks, the senior vice president of Solazyme’s food division, says he’s excited about the prospect of bringing algal protein to the masses. “We are making new-to-the-world, game-changing protein.”