Solein, a new protein ingredient produced from carbon dioxide and electricity, has earned regulatory approval from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), and is expected to be on the market in 2024.

Produced by Finnish food tech company, Solar Foods, Solein is a microbial protein-rich powder that can be used to replace protein in a range of foods, including meat and dairy.

The company says it’s the first ever novel food “disconnected from the limits of traditional agriculture”. Solein is produced using a bioprocess where microbes are fed carbon dioxide, hydrogen and oxygen, and small amounts of nutrients.

Because the production method isn’t reliant on agriculture, weather or climate, it can be produced almost anywhere, including “deserts, Arctic areas and even space,” Solar Foods said. It also doesn’t require animals or photosynthetic plants, making it, the company says, “the world’s most sustainable protein.”

Solar Foods CEO, Pasi Vainikka

Solar Foods CEO, Pasi Vainikka, said Solein’s approval is a “watershed moment”.

“I’d compare this to the discovery of the potato. We are introducing an entirely new ingredient to the world of food. It’s a watershed moment for how we think of what we eat.

“This is also a huge day for us as a company. The food revolution we have been working towards for years has taken a major step forward and we are highly excited about the prospect of bringing Solein to the market in Singapore. We have tested Solein rigorously in a wide variety of foods over recent years. However, the impact of any food product, no matter how innovative, is truly realised only once it can be put on the plates of consumers,” he said.

The production method for Solein isn’t reliant on agriculture, weather or climate.

Solein is 65-70 percent protein, five to eight percent fat, 10-15 percent dietary fibres and three to five percent mineral nutrients. Solar Foods says the macronutrient composition of Solein is very similar to that of dried soy or algae.

Solar Foods submitted a novel food dossier to SFA in September 2021 and while approval has now been granted, Solein’s launch is still a while off, with the company’s first commercial scale production facility, Factory 01, set to begin operations in Finland in 2024.

The company is now planning to seek GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) status in the US, and applications for novel food authorisation have been filed in other markets including the UK and EU.

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