Monday, Dec. 06, 2010

Algae food

For something that looks like pond scum — actually, it pretty much is pond scum — algae are extremely useful. Just ask the San Francisco startup Solazyme. Like countless other companies, Solazyme is working to create algae biofuel for cars, trucks and planes. Unfortunately, that market has yet to materialize, and because fuel is such a low-margin business, companies like Solazyme will need to sell a lot of their product before they can begin making a profit. It's classic chicken-and-egg economics.

But Solazyme's chemists stumbled on another use for their algae: food. The company's living products can be used to replace the eggs, butter and oil in cakes, cookies and more — except that the algae flour has a lipid profile that is much closer to healthy olive oil. It might sound gross, but the results are excellent — snacks that taste like snacks, but lower in fat calories and higher in protein. It's a perfect combination — as long as you can convince consumers to eat pond scum.