WAGENINGEN, THE NETHERLANDS – Unilever PLC has entered a partnership with Algenuity, a biotech startup, to research the viability of microalgae as an ingredient in food and beverages. The companies will explore the potential of bringing foods containing microalgae to market.

The research will focus on chlorella vulgaris, a microalgae that is a nutrient-rich source of protein and fiber that has a low environmental footprint. Chlorella possesses several additional beneficial nutrients, according to the companies, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. It has been consumed globally for many years, yet its high chlorophyll content, which gives plants their green color and a bitter taste and smell, has proven a barrier to its inclusion in mainstream diets. Algenuity claims to have developed a technology to overcome the limitation of chlorophyll content.

“We are delighted to partner with Unilever on this,” said Andrew Spicer, founder and chief executive officer of Algenuity. “Our Chlorella Colours platform provides plant-based ingredients that are sustainable, natural, non-GM and protein-rich with neutral flavors. They are also vegan-friendly making them extremely relevant for today’s growing consumer appetite for more plant-based foods with additional functional benefits.”

Citing microalgae’s huge potential, Manfred Aben, vice president of science and technology R&D and site leader of Hive, Unilever’s food innovation center in Wageningen, said, “Transitioning to a sustainable food system requires all of us to work together. It’s one of the world’s greatest challenges and will not happen without partnerships and collaborations. This is what our Hive ecosystem is all about. We are delighted to welcome Algenuity to our community.”