Is algae oil about to go mainstream?

11 Oct 2018

Algae oil boasts some impressive nutritional, environmental and functional benefits – and several companies appear to be on the verge of broadening its use. The question remains, will food manufacturers (and consumers) buy it?

Is algae oil about to go mainstream?

Algae oil already enjoys a good degree of success. Varieties high in DHA omega-3 fatty acids are widely used in infant formula and supplements, as well as various foods for adults. A recent European ruling has expanded the permitted uses for algae oil in the EU, following notification from BASF, Nutraveris and Mara Renewables that they intend to market the oil as a novel food. This potentially could open the European algae oil market to more mainstream food and drink manufacturers. And in the United States, major supplier Corbion has announced that it will introduce its Thrive Algae Oil at 2,000 Walmart stores, adding to the 3,500 other major retail outlets at which it is available, including Target.

So far, the market for algae oil looks promising. According to Grand View Research, global sales could reach $2.09 billion by 2025, boosted in the food and drink sector by its antioxidant content and favourable fat profile, especially as a vegetarian source of omega-3s. However, it notes that relatively high production costs compared to commodity oils could limit uptake.

As an environmentally friendly choice, algae oil is far less reliant on limited natural resources like land and water, and outstrips all others in production per hectare. Palm oil is by far the most productive land-based vegetable oil, yielding about 5,590 litres per hectare, but algae oil from open ponds could yield as much as 95,000 litres of oil per hectare, according to a report prepared for the US Department of Energy. And unlike oils from palm and soy, algae oil has not been linked to habitat destruction, deforestation and workers’ rights violations.

Research suggests that sustainability claims are becoming increasingly important to consumers. Euromonitor International says ethical labels on global food and drink products were worth $794 billion in 2017 – $67 billion more than health and wellness claims.

As well as in open ponds, algae can also be grown in fermentation tanks. It can then be harvested in days, meaning it is easier to produce large quantities to order, independent from climate and local weather conditions.

From a functional perspective, algae oil has an unusually high smoke point, making it a good choice for deep frying. It has a neutral taste, which is useful for baking, frying and coating, and as an ingredient in dressings and margarines. In addition, it is vegan, non-allergenic, contains no trans fats and about 25% more monounsaturated fat and 75% less saturated fat than olive oil.

So, will the benefits of algae oil prove sufficient for long term market success? Consumer interest in alternative oils has spiked in recent years, driven by demand for healthier ingredients. Oils from nuts, avocado, sesame, flax, hemp and grape seed, as well as more novel sources like krill, and berries like sea buckthorn and juniper have all increased in popularity. For packaged foods, heat stability, biochemical profile and consistent taste are the most important considerations.

Algae oil’s production costs may still be a barrier, but if these can be overcome, its functionality, health profile, eco-credentials and regulatory status mean it holds enormous promise.

Read more about 'Oils & Fats'

Related news

Stevia outpaces aspartame in new product launches

Stevia outpaces aspartame in new product launches

27 Nov 2018

The number of new stevia-sweetened foods and drinks overtook new products with aspartame in 2017, according to global data from Innova Market Insights.

Read more 
Nuts gain from awareness of healthy fats

Nuts gain from awareness of healthy fats

19 Nov 2018

Demand for products containing nuts is on the rise, aided by ongoing research into their health benefits and growing consumer understanding of healthy fats.

Read more 
Cranberries show promise for improved gut health

Cranberries show promise for improved gut health

19 Nov 2018

Researchers are just beginning to understand the link between the gut and many chronic health conditions, leading to growing interest in prebiotic ingredients. According to a new study, cranberries are the latest food to show prebiotic potential.

Read more 
Egg substitutes driven by vegan, allergen-free demand

Egg substitutes driven by vegan, allergen-free demand

13 Nov 2018

Egg replacers have long been used as a way to avoid to the price fluctuations often associated with real eggs, but recently interest has been driven by manufacturer demand for clean label and plant-based ingredients, allowing companies to make more veg...

Read more 
Whey protein on the rise across food categories

Whey protein on the rise across food categories

13 Nov 2018

Whey protein remains the most popular protein ingredient for athletes by far, but numerous whey protein ingredients have emerged over the past few years, in applications that take it well beyond sports nutrition.

Read more 
Could regulation tempt the industry to renew focus on low fat foods?

Could regulation tempt the industry to renew focus on low fat foods?

7 Nov 2018

The UK government aims to cut calories by 20% by 2024 in a range of popular foods, potentially shifting focus back onto foods’ fat content as companies strive to reach this target.

Read more 
Allergen-free foods gain momentum

Allergen-free foods gain momentum

5 Nov 2018

Launches of allergen-free foods have increased in recent years – and not just because of increased prevalence of food allergy.

Read more 
Enzyme technology slashes sugar in fruit juice

Enzyme technology slashes sugar in fruit juice

2 Nov 2018

Israeli researchers have developed a new technology to cut sugar by up to 80% in fruit juice, by using enzymes that boost the fibre content at the same time.

Read more 
What can blockchain do for the food industry?

What can blockchain do for the food industry?

1 Nov 2018

International food companies have started to embrace blockchain technology to help trace food and ingredients all along the supply chain. What are the potential benefits for the industry?

Read more 
The mainstreaming of meat alternatives

The mainstreaming of meat alternatives

26 Oct 2018

Tofu and lentils still have their place in a vegetarian diet, but a new generation of meat alternatives makes it easier than ever for consumers to switch to plant-based options – even the most enthusiastic meat eaters.

Read more