The market trends and consumers’ growing interest in natural and healthy products have encouraged researchers and the industry to develop novel products with functional ingredients. Microalgae have been recognized as a source of functional ingredients with positive health effects since these microorganisms produce polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, natural pigments, essential minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and bioactive peptides.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-aging properties and offer several benefits, such as preventing heart disease and healing atherosclerosis. Linolenic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are natural omega-3 fatty acids. Usually, these omega-3 fatty acids are derived from fish oil, but indications suggest that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil come from zooplankton, which consumes spirulina. Thus, microalgae are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Algal PUFA production is more economical than biofuel production; hence several large-scale producers are now focusing on nutritional PUFA production instead of biofuel production. Spirulina is one of the most prominent microalgae due to its high production of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, phenolic compounds, volatile compounds, sterols, proteins, amino acids, peptides, vitamins, polysaccharides, and pigments. It contains 15.8% lipids and 4.9% omega-3 fatty acids.
Due to shortcomings of fish-derived oil, including undesirable taste & odor, diminishing supplies, chemical processing methods, and the presence of contaminants, such as mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls, omega-3 fatty acids are now being produced using microalgae (spirulina), as it offers non-polluted omega-3 fatty acids.
In November 2016, Cellana, Inc. and PIVEG, Inc. signed a letter of intent for the joint development and commercialization of Omega-3 oils and other high-value applications of microalgae biomass. DSM and Evonik announced a joint development agreement for producing omega-3 fatty acids from natural marine microalgae for animal nutrition applications. Also, the omega-3 fatty acids in spirulina platensis prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in the body. DIC Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of DIC Lifetec Co., Ltd., which manufactures and sells health foods (notably edible blue-green algae spirulina), signed a sales agency contract with Fermentalg S.A. (France), a developer of microalgae-derived food ingredients. DIC has started marketing Fermentalg’s DHA ORIGINS-510 series of Schizochytrium sp.-derived highly concentrated docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) oils for use in dietary supplements. These factors are expected to drive the demand for spirulina across the globe.
Nisshin Pet Food has launched 73 new products containing chlorella. Also, Tohato has launched 21 new food products containing chlorella, 16 of which are sweet biscuits/cookies, 4 are corn-based snacks, and 1 is a potato snack. The U.S.-based company, Suja Life, has launched six new juice products, three nectars, and two fruit/flavored drinks containing chlorella.
Moreover, in October 2018, The Good Spoon launched a range of vegan mayo replacing egg yolk with chlorella. The company also aims to penetrate the European market with its plant-based mayonnaise alternatives. Thus, the increasing application of chlorella in various food products is boosting the demand for chlorella in the food & beverage industry, which is expected to boost the growth of the microalgae market during the forecast period.
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