For its base ingredient, Sophie’s Bionutrients uses uses various strains of microalgae (including chlorella, which is already in health supplements) that the Singapore Food Agency and European Food Safety Authority have already identified as being safe for consumption.
Sophie’s Bionutrients scales up the protein source from a single-cell microalgae into a plant-based flour. To make a meat like patty, that flour is extruded into textured crumbles that are then shaped into patties. The patties are then seasoned with 10 different spices.
According to the press announcement, each patty weighs roughly 60 grams and has 25 grams of protein, comprising all nine essential amino acids including histidine and leucine. Sophie’s Bionutrients also says its algae-based patty has two times more protein than beef or most commercially available fish.
The ethical and environmental impact issues of traditional animal meat production have helped drive sales of plant-based alternatives up in recent years. Additionally, feeding the nine billion people who will eventually live on this planet will require new methods of protein production, including the use of plant-based alternatives.
In addition to producing protein in a smaller footprint compared with animal protein, Sophie’s Bionutrients also helps reduce food waste. The company re-uses items like spent grains from breweries and okara from tofu makers and molasses from sugar refineries in its algae production process.
We’re seeing algae pop up as an ingredient in more food items. In Israel, Algalafel uses algae to add protein to falafel, and Yemoja developed a “fastrack photobioreactor” to produce algae-based ingredients for food. And here in the U.S. Back of the Yards Algae Sciences has developed an algae-based spray that gives plant-based burgers a more meaty taste.
Right now Sophie’s Bionutrients says each production batch can make between 20 – 100 patties within a week. That’s not a lot, but the product is just being unveiled today. Given investor interest in the alternative protein space, it’s not hard to imagine the company attracting funds to help it scale (assuming the algae burger tastes good). In addition to burgers, Sophie’s Bionutrients also has its version of crab cakes and protein crackers in the product pipeline.