- International Flavors & Fragrances is joining forces with Israeli food tech startup SimpliiGood by Algaecore Technologies to make a smoked salmon analog completely out of spirulina. A product is expected to hit the market by the end of 2023.
- SimpliiGood, which focuses on growing the sustainable and nutritious microalgae, will provide the raw material, texture and color of the product. IFF will provide the flavor and aroma attributes.
- Spirulina is getting renewed attention from many in the CPG food and beverage space for its sustainability and nutritional aspects. It's high in protein, contains several vitamins and minerals, is linked to boosted immunity and heart health while also being relatively easy to grow.
This partnership could herald a huge step forward in the plant-based meat sector: a meat analog that's essentially made from one ingredient.
As consumers become more interested in products with fewer ingredients that have names they recognize, the plant-based sector has responded. Brands, including Lightlife, have put extensive work into reducing their ingredient count and making the components of their product more recognizable. Some plant-based brands, including Everything Legendary, initially designed their products with these imperatives in mind. But the only plant-based meat analog products that come close to only one base ingredient are the age-old standards of tofu, tempeh and seitan — and critics could argue those aren't much like actual meat at all.
Spirulina, a blue-green microalgae, isn't necessarily much like meat either, though many companies have been working on figuring out new ways to process it, improve its taste and texture, and make it a more useful ingredient. SimpliiGood, which got its start in 2015, has worked to develop the sustainable and nutritious microalgae into desirable products. SimpliiGood currently has a range of spirulina-focused products on the market in Israel, including burgers, chicken nuggets, popsicles, ice cream, crackers and beverages, according to the release announcing the partnership.
"Our spirulina can act as a complete replacement for animal-based protein or be easily integrated into existing food products as an added-value ingredient, as it has a neutral flavor and maintains its full nutritional value," Algaecore CEO and Co-founder Lior Shalev said in a written statement. "This project marks an exciting milestone in our company's product line expansion as we enter the fish substitute market."
The salmon analog can be achieved through two IP-protected technologies SimpliiGood has developed. One is around the company's texturization platform, and can form salmon-like chunks from the microalgae with a similar mouthfeel as fish, the company said. The other draws the pink-orange color of the fish from the beta carotene pigment naturally present in spirulina. Considering that spirulina has long been treasured for its natural blue pigment, this technology shows that SimpliiGood is looking beyond the obvious applications of the microalgae.
IFF's role in this partnership is also vital. Spirulina is known for having an off-putting bitter taste and fishy smell, at least in its powder form. Several companies have been working on processing the microalgae so those are not at the forefront when it's eaten, but most other players in the spirulina business at this point are making an ingredient that is added to a larger product or recipe. Because SimpliiGood's smoked salmon would be all spirulina, much more flavor technology is needed to make it taste and smell authentic.
The ingredients powerhouse has a deep well of food tech to draw from. IFF has been known as a leader in natural flavors, but it also has significant reach into high-tech ingredients thanks to its mega-merger last year with the former DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences division. It's not clear what kinds of ingredient tech will be needed in order to make algae look, taste and behave like smoked salmon, but IFF is likely to have it.
If this partnership can truly make a successful spirulina salmon analog, it could re-validate IFF's stature in the plant-based flavoring segment. It will also show spirulina's promise as a sustainable and nutritious food ingredient, and may very will change the way that future manufacturers and consumers look at the ingredients needed to make plant-based food.