Algaia completes US$2.3m funding round to expand seaweed-based solutions
13 May 2020 --- French biomarine ingredients company Algaia has completed a €2.2 million (US$2.3 million) investment round to continue fueling its double-digit growth. One of the company’s main growth engines is VegAlg, its range of seaweed-based texturing solutions, which is designed to contribute shape and structure, as well as add juiciness to plant-based burgers. Meanwhile, with the COVID-19 pandemic shining a light on the way people cook and use ingredients at home, Algaia has also launched a new range of alginates to boost the shelf-life of processed cheese in cordon bleu filets.
Fabrice Bohin, Algaia CEO tells FoodIngredientsFirst that seaweed as a foodstuff continues to gain room in people’s diets, even in Europe where consumers’ appreciate its healthy profile, as an ingredient rich in oligo-elements and poor in calories. “Seaweed extracts are gaining space as well, not only in food but also in cosmetic, plant care, pharmaceutical or medical device applications. Benefits of seaweed extracts are now recognized by a large variety of industries.”
Seaweed extracts offer versatile solutions to food manufacturers, according to Bohin. “They also benefit from a positive consumer image,” he continues. “There is no doubt that plant-based texturizing solutions, protein or flavor components, to name a few, will continue to grow faster. The trends toward natural and sustainable solutions will even get stronger over the post COVID-19 pandemic.”
“During lockdowns, people have re-discovered the pleasure and benefits to cook by themselves. Retail food was the big beneficiary of the last months versus food service or out-of-home meals. COVID-19 is not just a sanitary and economic crisis, it is a new world in which we enter,” Bohin notes. “Consumers will be even more careful about the origin of the food, its traceability, sustainability and will pay even more attention to natural, food protection and health features following the crisis.”
“It is common knowledge that people suffering from obesity and diabetic illness have been among the most exposed. There is no doubt that consumers will look even more at their diet to become even more resistant to such kinds of viruses.” Food manufacturers will also privilege suppliers, supply chains and products they trust and that have demonstrated their reliability over this unprecedented crisis, he notes.
Over the past three years, a total of €7 million (US$7.5 million) has been invested in the Algaia manufacturing facility in Lannilis, Britany, France, with another €1 million (US$1.08 million) at its R&D facility in Saint-Lô, Normandy. An industrial pilot production line was inaugurated in the Saint-Lô site in 2019.
“In 2019, Algaia recorded a 17 percent sales growth, plus an additional 25 percent sales growth over the first four months of 2020,” says Frederic Faure, Business Development Director for Algaia.
“We grew at a double-digit rate in nutrition and cosmetic business activity, and experienced triple-digit growth in active ingredients used in plant care. Sales grew dramatically across a range of segments, and we recorded even higher demand in vegan applications where a series of new seaweed-based products, developed under the VegAlg umbrella, was recently launched,” Faure explains.
New lines for plant-based meat applications For Algaia, creating plant-based meat products is highly challenging since it is hard to mimic the taste, structure and texture of real meat. The new Algogel MVA series is specifically designed for meat analogs. It can replace cellulosic products traditionally used for structure in vegetable protein products. Alginates improves the interaction between the protein, lipid and water components of the food system.
Algogel works by naturally helping these components form a stable structure, which leads to enhanced texture and flavor.
Reinventing cordon bleu Another new line from Algaia is its alginate-based Satialgine DVA series, often used in combination with carrageenans extracted from fresh Chilean seaweed. Launched at Fi Europe 2019, it was designed to improve the functionality of cheese in cordon bleu dishes of meat rolled around cheese filling, then breaded and fried.
“A prepared meal like cordon bleu has been particularly popular during the COVID-19 crisis when people were cooking at home. Cordon bleu is a very convenient dish, highly appreciated by both adults and kids,” explains Fabien Canivet, Application Manager of Algaia.
“Our new portfolio increases the cheese shelf life, adds enhanced meltability and resistance to separation during the cook phase, allowing for a uniform look and feel. It also reduces the tendency for tiny fat globules in the cheese to coalesce and pool on the surface. The structural functionality improves slice-ability as well as thermal stability. Satialgine can be applied to other dairy applications as well,” Canivet explains.
To ensure a constant fresh local and renewable supply of seaweed biomass, Algaia works with local fishermen to harvest brown algae just a few kilometers from its plant in Brittany, France. The company is committed to full control over its supply and ensuring that its customers receive sustainable, high-quality, plant-based products.
“We can already see a shift toward sustainable products like seaweed extracts as consumers seek more sustainable, locally sourced ingredients,” continues Faure. “They want suppliers they can trust and who have been able to come forward and maintain reliability during this unique situation.”