Unilever has partnered with the UK-based biotech start-up Algenuity to explore the potential of using microalgae protein in food products.
Algenuity will work with the R&D team of Unilever’s Foods and Refreshment (F&R) division to develop food items made with microalgae.
The food items will be a part of Unilever’s plant-based portfolio, the company added.
Alternative protein sources such as microalgae represent a significant advancement in the shift towards an equitable and resilient food system.
Manfred Aben, VP science and technology R&D and site leader of Hive, Unilever’s Global Foods Innovation Centre, in Wageningen, said, “We are very excited about the huge potential working with Algenuity brings to advance nutritious foods that taste great and are a force for good.
“Transitioning to a sustainable food system requires all of us to work together. It’s one of the world’s greatest challenges and will not happen without partnerships and collaborations.”
The protein used by Algenuity is sourced from Chlorella vulgaris - a nutrient-rich, plant-based microalgae with a low environmental footprint.
In addition to proteins, it also contains fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
However, the high chlorophyll content in the algae imparts a bitter taste and smell making it difficult to include in mainstream diets.
Algenuity has developed an innovative technology to overcome the high chlorophyll content in Chlorella vulgaris, while preserving other nutrients.
The technology opens up a wealth of potential applications for microalgae in the food and beverage sector.
Andrew Spicer, CEO and Founder of Algenuity explained, “Our Chlorella Colours® platform provides plant-based ingredients that are sustainable, natural, non-GM and protein-rich with neutral flavours.
“They are also vegan-friendly making them extremely relevant for today’s growing consumer appetite for more plant-based foods with additional functional benefits.”