With the expanding global population, there has been an upsurge in food demand, creating massive growth potential for the algae protein market. The many documented benefits of sufficient protein intake in the daily diet, as well as emerging dietary trends in the wake of climate consciousness, have enhanced consumer interest in alternative proteins, such as plant-based protein.
Algal protein, a novel protein supplement, has a soy protein-like amino acid composition. Millennials have also become more health-conscious, which has aided the penetration of various healthier alternatives of foodstuffs. Moreover, protein deficiency is becoming a prominent concern in many countries, particularly with the inadequacy of cultivated land.
Additionally, the lack of effective solutions for vegetarians to meet their protein requirements has increased the appeal of algae proteins among consumers who follow these diets. Boosted by its nutritional significance, the global algae protein market size is slated to surpass a valuation of $1.05 billion by the end of 2028, as per a report by Global Market Insights Inc.
Here are the three major application areas driving consumer interest in the algae protein industry through the forecast period:
- Dietary supplements
Algal dietary supplements are known for their bioactive properties and nutritional value. Commercial algae-based products are branded safe by numerous research studies, and they are widely available in the market, indicating a broad consumer base.
Moreover, dietary supplements are not regulated strictly as food and pharmaceuticals, which has created the need for continuous assessment of safety, efficacy, and origin in order to guarantee the quality of dietary supplements. One of the hindrances for this is that comparison between different products is challenging since many unknown compounds are added by manufacturers.
Microalgae, for example, are easier to cultivate due to their ability to collect minerals, synthesize bioactive compounds, and their high nutritional value. They can be grown in diverse mediums, including wastewater, which further enhances the economic feasibility of microalgae cultivation. Thus, the surging prevalence of algae protein in dietary supplements is bolstering the algae protein market share.
2. Animal Feed
There is an urgent need to find alternative sources of nutrient-rich feedstocks for livestock production and poultry not just to support the burgeoning food demand but also to produce functional foods with various health benefits. Algae for animal feed has surfaced as a sustainable animal feed solution. Currently, several species of cyanobacteria and microalgae are utilized to supplement feedstocks.
Cultivating algae for animal feed has become a common procedure and benefits numerous animals. Algae protein finds usage in feed for dogs, horses, cows, cats, and aquarium fish, among other animals. Its high quality has been a key factor encouraging pet owners and farmers to consider the use of algae for animal feed.
Algal animal feed is a natural product that does not contain some of the concerning ingredients that are typically used in other animal feed solutions. Since algae are free from contaminants, metals, microbes, and pesticides, they are a potentially safe yet effective feed solution for animals.
Spirulina and chlorella are the most common algae for animal feed at present. They are added to treats, whole foods, and supplements for pets. The notable significance of algae protein as a sustainable animal feed solution is opening novel avenues for industry expansion.
3. Food & Beverage
Recognizing the impact of this protein in the food & beverage sector, algae protein companies have been leveraging its benefits in diverse products. For instance, in March 2022, Nestlé, the global conglomerate, expanded its plant-based portfolio with a new deal with the Dutch chemicals company Corbion.
The two firms set out to work on the development of microalgae-based ingredients that can be incorporated into animal-free foods to increase the sustainability, taste, and nutrition of new products. For this purpose, Nestlé and Corbion agreed to develop microalgae products with lower water, land, and carbon footprints than other conventional ingredients. Microalgae have been shown to add many health benefits, especially in vegan food products, as they are a clean source of fat, nutrients, and protein.
Moreover, recent research studies have widened the scope of the application of algae protein, particularly microalgae, in the industry. To cite an instance, in April 2022, Allmicroalgae, a Portuguese microalgae producer, scaled a novel high-protein microalgae strain as part of the ProFuture project that is funded by the EU. The Chlorella strain has potential application in vegan food products that are not only better tasting but also more nutritional.
The ProFuture project envisions the creation of cost-efficient and environmentally responsible production technologies for microalgae that can offer nutritious and sustainable protein-dense feeds and foods. Microalgae is one of the most promising candidates for addressing food needs worldwide due to its smaller carbon footprint and high nutritional value.
Pandemic ushers in more sustainable production methods
Sustainability is now a key theme in the industry, prompting algae protein companies to adopt production methods that are gentler on the environment. The COVID-19 outbreak has also brought a paradigm shift in food distribution, forcing rapid adjustments in the global supply chains while accommodating environmental concerns.
In March 2021, for instance, Allmicroalgae leveraged the full potential of algae as a natural and versatile ingredient when the demand for ingredients derived from sustainable sources surged during the pandemic. This rising emphasis on the adoption of more sustainable products and production processes is shaping a greener future for the algae protein industry.