Sophie’s BioNutrients is on a mission to transform the plant-based meat and dairy categories with microalgae.
Its most recent innovation, made in collaboration with the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), is a chlorella-based ice cream. According to the start-up, the product hits the mark when it comes to durability, nutrition, and functionality.
The dairy-free and lactose-free alternative to ice cream offers higher nutritional content than most dairy-free alternatives available, said Eugene Wang, co-founder and CEO of Sophie’s BioNutrients.
“We are extremely excited about this development of allergen-free foods and the prospect of more inclusive dining.”
Microalgae ‘nutrient rich and versatile’
Sophie’s BioNutrients was established in 2017 by co-founders Wang and CTO Kirin Tsuei in Singapore, but the start-up recently moved to Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.
After Wang learned of his daughter Sophie’s allergy to shellfish, the duo set out to create a high-quality, nutritious and, above all, non-allergenic protein alternative.
The answer, according to the co-founders, lies in microalgae. Sophie’s BioNutrients ferments microalgae in bioreactors before isolating its proteins and transforming them into a powder for food formulation.
Neutral tint microalgae meal is grown from chlorella vulgaris and harvested in three days. These strains of microalgae are approved by US GRAS and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for use as food ingredients or supplements.
It’s the chlorella vulgaris the strains that Sophie’s BioNutrients incorporated into the vegan ice cream formulation. “Microalgae are one of the most nutrient rich and versatile resources on the planet,” Wang said. “Today we showed another side of the limitless possibilities this superfood can offer.”
Nutritious, functional, sustainable
Unlike classic vegetable ice cream, chlorella ice cream has a complete nutritional profile. A one-ounce serving has the potential to provide double the daily recommended intake of B12, and chlorella is also a good source of iron – which is missing from cow’s milk.
The global vegan ice cream category is on an upward trajectory. According to Research and Markets, the market was valued at $592.8 million (€592.89 million) in 2021 and is expected to reach $833.8 million by 2027 with a healthy CAGR of 5.45%.
In terms of functionality, Sophie’s BioNutrients claims that in combination with other functional ingredients, the product “mimics the natural texture of ice cream” and can be “easily” made into several popular ice cream flavors with additional toppings. When asked how the ice cream tasted, Wang told this publication that the “vanilla flavor was strong,” and therefore it tasted “almost like real ice cream.” “I guess if you don’t use flavor it would taste like our powder – which has a very mild and pleasant seaweed taste.”
The product also offers a “significantly” lower carbon footprint, the startup noted. The DTI “Green Solutions” Facilitator agrees. “Microalgae are definitely part of the future. It is a sustainable ingredient with a lot of potential in multiple food applications”, said Anne Louise Dannesboe Nielsen, director of food technology at DTI.
“At DTI, we have a growing interest in microalgae and look forward to helping develop, understand and explore its potential.”
Although the vegan ice cream collaboration between DTI and Sophie’s BioNutrients was just a research project, Wang told us that the start-up is now talking to many dairy companies and dairy-based start-ups. plants in hopes of turning the innovation into a commercial product. .