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Finnish food tech company Solar Foods has received regulatory approval for its novel sustainable protein powder made from hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
Solein, Solar Foods’ new protein, has received approval for sale and consumption from the Singapore Food Agency. Singapore is also the first country to approve the sale and consumption of cultivated meat, giving U.S.-based Eat Just the green light in 2020 for its cell-based chicken.
Hydrogen and CO2
Solar Foods is using a single-cell-based microbial tech to grow its protein with help from hydrogen and CO2 pulled from the atmosphere along with a minimal amount of nutrients. The hydrogen and CO2 replace sugars as the sources of energy and carbon. The protein represents a breakthrough in food tech, according to Solar Foods CEO Pasi Vainikka.
“I’d compare this to the discovery of the potato: we are introducing an entirely new ingredient to the world of food,” Vainikka, said in a statement. “It’s a watershed moment for how we think of what we eat.”
The company says the protein marks the first time an ingredient is made without traditional agriculture limitations. It also holds promise in fighting food scarcity and producing in harsh climates. Solar Foods says Solein can grow in the Arctic, deserts, and in outer space. Part of the reason is the process does not require plant or animal implements.
The unconventional protein doesn’t lack nutrition, though. It contains all essential amino acids, a range of B vitamins and iron, 65 to 70 percent protein, five to eight percent fat, ten to 15 percent dietary fiber, and three to five percent mineral nutrients by weight, the company says. It compares it to dried soy or algae.
The company says the protein can serve as a base for a range of foods including bread, pasta, beverages, and alternatives to conventional meat and dairy. The first Solar Foods production facility, Factory 01, is expected to be operational in Vantaa Finland by 2024.
Solar Foods builds on the growing microbial fermentation trend. Companies including Perfect Day and Nature’s Fynd are working with microbes to create dairy and meat alternatives that look, cook, and taste more like the conventional versions.
Mimicking that flavor and mouthfeel experience is important; U.S. sales of plant-based foods dropped more than ten percent in the last year. Many say that because plant-based alternatives are often pricier and don’t offer the same taste experience, they’re not feeling compelled to buy them.
Solar Foods says its product “vanishes” into foods and doesn’t change the taste of familiar products.
“There have been companies before us and there will be companies after us with other products,” Vainikka said. This is just one dot in the trajectory of the launch and rollout of alternative proteins globally. We are just one dot in the curve.”
Lead image of Solein protein courtesy of Solar Foods.