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Algaia, a French biomarine ingredient company specialising in seaweed natural extracts, has just completed a US$2.4 million investment round, which it says it will spend on developing a new range of seaweed-based solutions that can be used to create plant-based substitutes. The company has seen double-digit growth over the past years, as demand for seaweed-based ingredients skyrockets for vegan food applications.
The French specialist in natural extracts and ingredients has just announced the completion of a US$2.4 million funding round, which the company will use to develop a new range of seaweed-based texturing solutions. Called VegAlg, the company says that its proprietary ingredient line will improve the texture, shape and structure of plant-based meats.
A new Algogel MVA product series will be specifically designed for plant-based meat analogues, and hopes to be able to replace the cellulosic ingredients that are currently common in plant-based protein products. Algogel naturally helps proteins, fats and water components in the product to form a stable structure, which enhances texture and flavour and will provide the “juiciness” that consumers crave, according to the company.
Founded in 2004, Algaia has poured money into its manufacturing facilities in the past few years to meet the growing demand for its seaweed-based solutions. It has spent more than US$7.7 million to build its production facility in the French region of Britany, as well as over US$1.1 million on its Normandy research and development site.
“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,” said business development director for Algaia, Frederic Faure.
30% of the company’s sales have come from their new line of seaweed ingredients in the past few months, especially as food manufacturers and producers begin to respond to greater consumer interest and awareness about the health, traceability, safety and sustainability advantages of plant-based foods.
While the company saw strong 17% year-on-year sales growth in 2019, an additional 25% spike in sales came just in the first quarter of 2020, despite the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Covid-19 breakout is creating a paradigm shift toward even more traceable, secured food solutions that are in line with our new seaweed portfolio and long-term sustainability strategy,” said Faure.
Last week, a new industry report published by nonprofit the Good Food Institute (GFI) predicted that the plant-based sector will flourish during and after the pandemic. In just this first quarter of 2020 alone, plant-based protein companies in the United States have raised a total of US$741 million in investment – nearly matching a record $747 million raised in the whole of 2019.
But it isn’t just the threat of public health emergencies prompting greater awareness about the vulnerabilities of the animal industry. Multiple livestock diseases are now further exacerbating consumer concerns about health, safety and sustainability, such as the African swine fever, avian flu and Div1 virus that affects shrimp populations.
David Yeung, the founder of Hong Kong plant-based venture Green Monday described these as a “triple threat” that “fully exposes” the crisis that is our animal-centric food supply chain in a recent interview with Green Queen.
With mounting concerns over the environmental impact and supply chain chaos of the meat industry, one analysis suggested that the demand for plant-based meat will hit US$21 billion by 2025 – an estimate that is only good news for Algaia’s long-term trajectory.
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