Triton Algae Innovations recently secured regulatory approval to sell its algae-based protein product. Its algae come in three colors: red, green and yellow.

Elise Reuter writes for the San Diego Business Journal that, with the rise of the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat tacos, and the growing demand for other plant-based products, Triton Algae Innovations is looking to take a big bite of the growing market.

Triton recently secured approval to begin selling its algae-based protein product. An independent source designated its product as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), enough proof for Triton to begin selling. In March, the company also secured a letter that the FDA had “no questions” about its GRAS designation, another important stamp of approval, as it seeks partners for its algae-based protein.

The company is a spinout from UC San Diego research conducted by co-founder Steve Mayfield at UCSD. It brought on industry expert Xun Wang as its president and CEO, who previously held executive posts at Sapphire Energy and Syngenta Biotech.

Triton now has nine employees and is using contract manufacturing organizations for commercial-scale production. It hopes to scale up its manufacturing as it brings on more commercial partners.

The company currently produces a green, yellow and red phenotype of algae called Heme. A type of iron in red algae, Heme is the component in plant-based meats that makes them sizzle and taste like meat.

While other algae-based proteins exist, Triton’s product is based on a species of algae that hadn’t previously been commercialized, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

Though it had been studied extensively in labs, C. reinhardtii wasn’t used in food products in the past because it was dominated by other algae in the wild. But Triton found a way to use a closed fermentation process, similar to the stainless-steel tanks of a brewery, to grow the algae.

It is then dried and ground into a powder form. “People compare it to a wheatgrass or dried parsley flavor,” said David Schroeder, director of corporate and regulatory affairs for Triton.

“We’re in discussions with three or four companies right now that are very interested in (its) potential use,” he said. “We’ve fiddled around with different formulations of our own: pastas, protein bars…we’re excited to see different end uses being devised.”

As algae-based products appear in everything from the health section of supermarkets to fast-food restaurants, Mr. Schroder said the industry looks poised for growth.

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