Unilever and Algenuity partner to explore use of microalgae protein
Unilever to begin R&D work with Algenuity’s proprietary microalgae platform Chlorella Colours as a plant-based source of protein for food and drink products
Unilever and UK biotech start-up Algenuity have joined forces in a partnership to investigate the potential of microalgae for future product development of Unilever’s plant-based portfolio.
Headquartered in Bedfordshire, a county in the East of England, Algenuity specialises in developing microalgae for use in consumer products. The company will work with the R&D team within Unilever’s foods and refreshment (F&R) division to explore ways of bringing foods made with microalgae to the market.
The R&D work will take place at Unilever’s innovation centre in Wageningen ( the Hive), and the CPG giant believes there is great potential for using the microalgae in soups, mayo, mustard, pasta and ice cream products.
For Unilever, developing alternative protein sources like microalgae represent a significant step forward in the critical shift needed to an equitable and resilient food system.
It is estimated that by 2050, the world will need to produce 70% more food to feed a growing population of 10 billion people. These foods will need to meet a high nutritional standard, while reducing their impact on the environment.
Unilever and Algenuity say they recognise the key role that diverse, plant-based proteins like microalgae will play in transitioning towards this new food system.
Chlorella vulgaris, a widely recognised microalgae, is a nutrient-rich, plant-based source of protein and fibre, with a low environmental footprint. Chlorella possesses a number of additional beneficial nutrients including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
People have consumed Chlorella for many years, yet its high chlorophyll content, which gives plants their green colour and a bitter taste and smell, has proven a barrier to its inclusion in mainstream diets. Algenuity’s proprietary technology processes the microalgae to achieve a rich source of neutral-tasting, functional plant-based protein.
“Microalgae offer much untapped potential as a viable, climate-friendly protein alternative,” said Alejandro Amezquita, future bio-based ingredients R&D director at Unilever F&R. “They have a significant part to play in food system transformation. We are very much looking forward to working with Algenuity to explore the possibilities of making foods that contain microalgae more mainstream.”
Microalgae protein technology
Algenuity has developed Chlorella Colours, a platform based on Chlorella vulgaris derived from the company’s proprietary, high-performing microalgal strain.
The UK start-up claims its Chlorella Colours significantly reduces the chlorophyll content of microalgae while still allowing them to retain their natural nutrients, unlocking a wealth of potential applications for microalgae in the food and drink sector.
Andrew Spicer, founder and chief executive of Algenuity, said: “We are delighted to partner with Unilever on this. 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.”