Roquette's production unit – at its industrial site in Lestrem, Pas de Calais, France – is dedicated to a new range of food ingredients from microalgae.

Roquette’s production unit – at its industrial site in Lestrem, Pas de Calais, France – is dedicated to a new range of food ingredients from microalgae.

Nutritionaloutlook.com this month gives a well-rounded survey of how algae’s uses in food, beverage, and supplements keep expanding. Here is an excerpt: Thanks to the 2010 Solazyme Roquette Nutritionals joint venture between Roquette (Lestrem, France) and Solazyme Food Ingredients (San Francisco, CA), food formulators can now use algae to address some key challenges and make foods and beverages healthier. Whole algal flour, for instance, is a fat and egg replacer, thanks to algae’s high lipid content. The two companies parted ways in 2013, but each continued rolling out its own algae line last year. Roquette’s Algility and Solazyme’s AlgaVia both include whole algal flour and algal protein. Last summer, Roquette announced a new microalgae production unit in Lestrem.

With AlgaVia, Solazyme is serving up some new food concepts, such as algal milk. Unlike Horizon’s DHA-fortified milks, this milk is dairy free. “While Horizon’s beverage consists of cow’s milk that has been fortified with DHA derived from algae, Solazyme has created a non-dairy milk alternative formulated using whole algal flour and whole algal protein,” explained Mark Brooks, Solazyme’s senior vice president.

Algal milk is also allergen free because it contains no soy, nuts, lactose, or gluten, he points out. Low-fat milk is even possible due to AlgaVia flour’s ability to reduce fat in formulation. By replacing 2% milk with skim milk and adding 1.5% AlgaVia flour, for instance, the company made a chocolate milk that is 40% lower in total fat, 66% lower in saturated fat, and 5% lower in calories—all “while maintaining an indulgent chocolate taste you would get from a full-fat product,” Brooks says.

Also ongoing for Solazyme is a highly stable high-oleic algal oil to replace partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and highly saturated fats (think frying and margarine). This oil contains the lowest level of polyunsaturated fat compared to other oils on the market and up to 90% monounsaturated fats, according to Solazyme.

Elsewhere in algae, there is now extreme focus on highlighting the unique benefits specific to strains and sources. Members of the new Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) continue their mission to draw a line between nature-identical astaxanthin and astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis algae.

Edward Wyszumiala, NAXA’s president, told Nutritional Outlook that “NAXA’s 2015 key focus will be to increase our efforts to educate industry and regulators of the importance of using only natural astaxanthin for use in supplements and foods, and funding additional clinical research on natural astaxanthin while comparing the results against synthetic and semi-synthetic forms of astaxanthin in the market.”

Working towards commercial scale-up means many firms are grappling with production and supply challenges. But this is expected to slowly change. “Supply was a limiting factor in the last two years, and therefore many companies put on hold new product launches. Due to the increase in availability of astaxanthin, we expect that demand will keep going up, especially in new categories such as functional food and beverages,” says Efrat Kat, director of sales and marketing for astaxanthin supplier Algatechnologies (Israel), which is in the second stage of its three-part plan to double output of its AstaPure astaxanthin.