Algae, which is already used in baking mixes, ice cream, protein powders and more, may be added to even more product formulations this year, according to Fast Company.
Packed with protein and trace minerals — spirulina is about 65% protein, while beef contains only about 20% of protein that the human body can use — algae is easy to grow and has endless potential to reduce calories, fat and cholesterol in product formulations. Developers are still working to improve its bad taste, however.
Algae is also free from all known dietary allergens, making it a valuable ingredient for manufacturers looking to cater to all consumer diets.
As the world's population continues to increase, it's becoming more difficult to find the land needed to grow or produce the mainstay products — many of them meat or dairy-based — on which so much of mankind depends.
Among the most viable alternatives being developed in response to environmental degradation are different forms of algae. One, spirulina, is already in many mainstream food products. It could also be a source of natural blue food coloring in the near future — the FDA approved the alga as a natural alternative to artificial Blue 1 in 2013.
A study on spirulina published last June describes how algae-supplemented rice-soy crisps were manufactured using super-critical fluid extrusion. The process is described as “an innovative process-based approach to produce shelf-stable nutritious crispy products which can be further be converted into food bars for school nutrition programs to reduce the menace of malnutrition, particularly in developing countries."
This is just one report of many supporting the massive potential this ocean green has to improve nutrition across the world. Natural News notes that “hundreds of studies have confirmed spirulina's powerhouse; It has 60-70% complete protein, meaning it has all right essential amino acids and 10 non-essential ones that support good health.” A single tablespoon of dried spirulina powder contains 4 grams of protein and only 20 calories, which according to AuthorityNutrition.com, puts it in the running to be "the single most nutritious food on the planet."
Algae's protein yield is of particular interest to many manufacturers looking to capitalize on the consumer-driven protein trend. The term "protein" has become synonymous with "health" for many mainstream consumers, and shoppers are seeking out staple food and beverage products like cereal and coffee to add extra protein to their everyday diets. Algae's abundance and lack of dietary irritants make it a prime ingredient for these types of formulas.