Meat from algae: The next plant-based contribution to sustainable food production?

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Petri dishes of algae produced using synthetic biology.

Microalgae capture sunlight using pigments of vibrant colors, such as chlorophylls, carotenoids, and phycocyanin. In particular, the algae spirulina and chlorella found their way to the market a long time ago as food supplements and food colorants. Algae are also an excellent source of protein, which opens up a lot of opportunities in the production of meat analogs and vegan food in general.

Unilever, a massive producer of food and other consumer goods, has seen the nutritional potential of microalgae, partnering with UK-based company Algenuity in July. “Algae are a source of high-quality plant-based protein,” said Manfred Aben, Vice President of Science & Technology at Unilever. “These products will appeal to a variety of consumers; for vegans and vegetarians but also for flexitarians and meat-eaters looking to reduce their consumption of animal products.”

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[In 2019], the Dutch food and biochemical company Corbion announced a similar partnership with Nestlé, signaling that big players in the food industry are starting to increasingly recognize the potential value of algae products. Other companies gaining traction in the field are Algama in France seeking to provide meat alternatives, and AlgaEnergy in Spain producing food and feed as well as cosmetics and fertilizers from algae.

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