Algae: A Future Superfood
Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
Algae is one of the most promising foods for the future: easy to cultivate, offering an abundance of protein and other nutrients, whilst maintaining biodiversity. Contributed by Neha Srivastava, Mintel Patent Analyst—Food & Drink / Beauty & Personal Care.
The consumer’s recent interest in “better for me, better for the planet” food and drink should continue to drive the demand for plant proteins. Algae is one of the most promising foods for the future: easy to cultivate, offering an abundance of protein and other nutrients, whilst maintaining biodiversity.
According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), although algae (carrageenan and agar) has been widely used in edible categories as a thickener, gelling or bulking agent, there has been an increase in using algae-based ingredients as a micronutrient, protein and omega fat in recent years.
The increased awareness of algae’s health benefits is the main driver of algae’s rising popularity in food and drink. Mintel finds that 36 percent of US consumers are either currently eating algae as a protein source on a regular basis or are interested in trying it. The presence of large quantity of essential amino acids makes algal protein superior to many other plant proteins, which may disrupt the plant-based protein market and give rise to algal protein as a vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, sustainable and non-GMO protein source.
Concern over limited nutritional resources and demand for sustainability also contribute to algae’s rising popularity as algae require minimal resources for growth.
In addition to being a nutritional and sustainable ingredient, algae’s umami flavour, salty taste and pigments present in algae provide an opportunity for use as a flavouring agent, salt substitute and natural food colour. Mintel data shows that 35 percent of US consumers agree that an artificial flavour-free food claim is important to them and 31 percent an artificial colour-free food claim. This leaves the opportunity for continuous research on algal ingredients as they can deliver visual and sensory characteristics while maintaining clean labels.
Most notably, recent patent development focuses on techniques to remove the unacceptable fishy odour and colour of algal protein to increase its application in protein shakes and other food and drink items.
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