Algama Foods initially launched 'Springwave' in 2014 but pulled the beverage off the market after just two years to work on taste and stability issues. In between, the company has developed The Good Spoon - a vegan, chlorella-based mayonnaise that launched in New York and Paris last year.
Thomas Felice, R&D manager at Algama Foods, said the company is now ready to re-launch its spirulina-fortified water after two years of work in the lab and a newly developed, patented process.
“We're ready and looking for investors and partners to launch this product,” Felice told NutraIngredients.
The company hopes to find a partner to launch the product by the second-quarter of next year, he said.
Springwave is made using a concentrated, dried blue spirulina extract that is high in phycocyanin, vitamins and minerals, creating an antioxidant-rich drink with revitalising properties, Felice said, but there is also scope to develop line extensions with other microalgae forms.
Prototypes at the ready...
As well as redeveloping Springwave and launching The Good Spoon, Algama Foods also has an entire team developing food and beverages containing microalgae. Felice said the company has around 200 prototypes ready to upscale through prospective partnerships, including beverages, dairy and bakery products.
The beverage category in particular is extremely promising for microalgae, he said, because it is fast-moving and consumers are open to trying new products, versus food where people need more time to integrate products into consumption habits. Snacks, he said, is another promising sector given the products are on-the-go, quick purchases.
“It's been four years that we've been working on these [prototypes] and we now have an expertise on these kinds of food applications,” Felice said.
Asked what the biggest challenges are when working with microalgae in food and beverage systems, he said there are two: stability of sensitive compounds and organoleptic properties, particularly taste and colour. “Organoleptic issues are a big one. People don't want to eat something if it's not good. You can add the best nutritional profile but if it doesn't taste good, the product won't be accepted.”
He said industry needs to focus R&D efforts on taste and colour if use of microalgae is to truly become mainstream. Efforts to screen for new species may go a long way in addressing this, he said, because only around ten microalgae types per country are being used out of the estimated one billion available globally and every microalgae has different properties.
The other major hurdle of stability, Felice said, is made particularly challenging when trying to maintain the nutritional profile of microalgae in food and beverage products.
“Actually, if you take the whole microalgae without breaking the cell wall or without extracting compounds, it's pretty robust - chlorella is clearly more robust; spirulina is too. But, if you don't break the cells, you have more organoleptic issues (…) The more you try to avoid organoleptic constraints, the more stability problems you will have,” he said.
Fresh microalgae promise?
In terms of using fresh versus dried microalgae, Felice said fresh microalgae is the best nutritional option but production and storage remains problematic, although producers are working on developing methods to snap-freeze and store the crop for longer, he said.
“Today, if you want to work with fresh spirulina or microalgae, you need to use it within less than a week. ...If tomorrow, we can have fresh spirulina at low cost and very stable across time, it would be a very interesting product for the food industry.”