Alternatives to meat protein are nothing new. Rice, beans, nuts, and seeds have been around a long time, and soy began finding its way into the American diet a few decades ago. More recently, Americans have become increasingly familiar with protein from plants such as quinoa, chia, linseed, hemp, and peas.
However, with the increasing need to feed more people and the intensified desire for more sustainable food options, what’s next on the protein horizon? Algae and insects.
Algae and seaweed: A vegan option
Algae are plant-like, usually aquatic, organisms that range from the microscopic (microalgae) to large seaweeds (macroalgae). Growing algae uses far fewer resources than most traditional food crops. Algae are also vegan, contain no known allergens, and can add dietary fiber, healthy fats, and micronutrients to existing foods.
Seaweed has been a staple of the Asian diet for centuries, and most Americans are familiar with it through its use for sushi. However, other seaweed uses have been limited, though companies such as SeaSnax and Annie Chun’s are now offering seaweed snacks, and Ocean’s Halo offers seaweed chips. Plus, Oregon State University researchers recently announced they had patented a new strain of a red seaweed called dulse that tastes like bacon.
In the development of microalgae as food, Solazyme is a leader. Last year, the company released AlgaVia™ Whole Algal Flour, which can “replace or reduce dairy fat, egg yolks and oil in recipes,” and Whole Algal Protein, which can be added to food products to increase protein and nutrient content. The gold-colored algae are 65% protein and also contain fatty acids, fiber and the carotenoid lutein. Solazyme believes consumers are ready for algae protein, with just a little education.
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