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Harnessing the Power of Algae: Exploring the Benefits of Algae Products

   January 4, 2024

Algae products refer to a class of photosynthetic organisms mainly found in marine and freshwater habitats and are used in several industries for various purposes. The development of alternative protein sources like algae is a key trend in gaining popularity in the algae products market. Also, emerging alternative protein sources such as algae help achieve a more reasonable and resilient food system.

Hydrocolloids, carotenoids, lipids, and algae protein are the major algal products extensively used in industries such as food and beverages, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and animal feed. The most frequently used algae extracts in these industries are derived from seaweed, chlorella, spirulina, Dunaliella salina, and Haematococcus Pluvialis.

Hydrocolloids are used for various applications, such as food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and personal care products. They are generally used as functional ingredients in food formulations to increase food consistency, improve the gelling effect, and control the microstructure, texture, flavor, and shelf life. It is widely used in probiotic foods and zero-calorie foods. The growing demand for nutritious food increases the incorporation of hydrocolloids in food formulations.

Carotenoids, being natural pigments, are experiencing growing usage in cosmetics, driven by the rising demand for products based on natural ingredients. They offer multiple benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and photoprotective effects. Carotenoids are widely used in the cosmetic industry in product formulations aimed at enhancing skin health, appearance, and protection. Carotenoids are particularly employed in sunscreens, anti-aging products, and skin repair formulations within the cosmetic industry.

Moreover, proteins extracted from microalgae are gaining popularity due to their high nutritional, bioactive, and functional properties. Spirulina is gaining prominence worldwide as a food ingredient due to its high protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, pigments, and vitamin content.

Rising Demand for Natural Food Colors Increasing the Utilization of Algae Products

Consumers’ rising health consciousness and inclination toward environment-friendly products are driving the demand for natural foods globally. Plant-based food colors can enhance the visual appeal and improve the nutritional value of food products without the adverse effects of synthetic food colors. Algae are considered a major source of natural food colors and are therefore used as a sustainable source in the production of natural food-grade colorants.

Food manufacturers are widely incorporating natural food colors due to consumers’ increasing demand for products with natural ingredients. The attractiveness of food & beverage products can be restored after processing using natural food colors. Also, in the U.S., the FDA has banned the use of artificial color additives linked to cancer in either animal or human applications. All these factors are driving the adoption of natural food colors.

Spirulina has a blue-green color, imparts bright, vivid blue and green shades, and hence, can be used in the manufacture of confectionery and chewing gums. The U.S. FDA has approved the use of spirulina extract as a natural blue coloring ingredient in food & beverage applications. Phycocyanin, the blue food color extracted from spirulina, became the first natural blue food color to be approved by the U.S. FDA. As a result, there is a rising demand for spirulina-based colors in the manufacturing of beverages, dairy products, and confectionery. Other food segments such as frosting, ice cream, dry beverage mixes, yogurt, and gelatin also use spirulina extract as a natural blue food colorant. According to the Food Marketing Institute, a grocery trade group, the volume of spirulina used for food & beverage applications increased five-fold between 2014 and 2020, and the natural food-coloring industry grew at an average annual rate of 6.8% during this timeframe.

The demand for astaxanthin in the food industry is on the rise. Although some manufacturers use synthetic astaxanthin in food production, there are concerns over the safety of using synthetic astaxanthin for direct human consumption due to its different stereochemistry and the potential carryover of synthesis intermediates. These concerns make natural astaxanthin derived from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae a preferred choice in high-end markets. Haematococcus pluvialis has already been approved as a color additive for salmon feed and as a dietary supplement ingredient for human consumption in the U.S., Japan, and several European countries. The natural pigment from Haematococcus pluvialis is used in the food industry to impart a red-orange color to various food products, including seafood, meat, poultry, dairy, and bakery products.

Thus, the rising demand for natural food colors drives the growth of the algae products market.

Meticulous Research®, in its latest publication on the Algae Products Market, states that the Algae Products Market is expected to reach $5.55 billion by 2030 at a CAGR of 7.8% during the forecast period of 2023 to 2030. In terms of volume, this market is projected to reach 460,870.9 tons by 2030, at a CAGR of 9.0% during the forecast period of 2023–2030.

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