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New red microalgae makes veggie burgers ‘bleed’

15/12/2021 – Ingredients / Microalgae / Plant Based / Marine / Burgers / Bleed / Meat / Yemoja

New red microalgae makes veggie burgers ‘bleed’

Marine ingredient start-up Yemoja’s new microalgae is poised to become a nutritious player in the plant meat space.

Yemoja Ltd has announced that it is developing a red microalgae discovery for medium-rare plant-based burgers and steaks that adds an authentic, ‘bloody’ juiciness. 

Branded Ounje, meaning ‘food’ in Yoruba (a Niger-Congo language), this formulation mimics the red juices of real meat without harming animals or the planet – and without the need for artificial colour additives. 

The company discovered that this marine ingredient, when combined with other derivatives from this same Porphyridium strain of algae, can provide a nutrient packed medium for rendering the sensory characteristics of juicy meats for plant-based meat and cultured meat products.


Watch the video here 

Cutting-edge, indoor, microalgae-cultivating system 

Yemoja operates a cutting-edge, indoor system for cultivating high-value, pure, and standardised microalgae bio compounds serving the nutraceutical and cosmetics B2B sectors. The platform system allows the manipulation of light, temperature, and pH to yield high concentrations of desired bioactive compounds with minimal ecologic footprint and without contaminants, using minimal resources, and sharply reducing waste.

The deep red algae is grown indoors in high precision photobioreactors, and exhibits the potential to act as a natural, clean, and 100-per-cent plant-sourced heme substitute to serve the cultured meats and plant-based alt-meat sectors.

A serendipitous discovery

“While working on a new formulation for cosmetic applications, we serendipitously discovered that this specific composition yields a substance that resembles blood in appearance and texture,” noted Amikam Bar-Gil, PhD, co-founder and CTO of Yemoja. “Encouraged by the first test results, we decided to push the boundaries further and take it to the next level, trying it out in test products. The results were an immediate proof of concept.”

A convincing, plant-based blood-substitute that browns up nicely

When it comes to creating plant-based meats and hybrids, there is a strong demand for a convincing blood-substitute to award the growing pool of ethically-conscious diners the full experience of biting into a juicy beef burger. This niche is currently witnessing a wide use of beetroot juice and other colour additives. These various additives help accord the desired colour effect at its raw stage, but still cannot change colour in the manner that meat does when cooked. This often necessitates adding various sugars that caramelize when heated to attain the desired effect.

In a technological leap forward, Yemoja’s patented microalgal heme substitute not only provides the initial red pigment to raw plant-based meats; it also browns up nicely when put to the sizzle. Moreover, it also congeals like real meat juices. “We found the polysaccharides within this particular algae species express a viscosity similar to gelatin when cooked,” noted Amikam Bar-Gil. “Its natural fibre also awards an appealing crunchiness and emits an appetising meaty aroma,”

Red microalgae’s added nutrient boost

Beyond the visual and textural meat-like appeal that the microalgae provides, it also gives an added nutrient boost to the product. Microalgae is a highly sustainable crop boasting a 20–30-per-cent protein load and harbours the complete essential amino acids profile. Algae is also a valuable source of essential fatty acids and polyphenols, as well as minerals and vitamins, and is swiftly gaining esteem as a powerful superfood.

“The demand for clean, naturally-sourced alternative proteins that can dually exert a less harmful impact on the environment is an internationally sought venture,” remarked Erez Ashkenazi, Co-founder and CEO of Yemoja. “Our advanced patented cultivation system offers a high-value yet cost-effective solution that can be easily scaled up to the unique needs of the various alt protein/meat producers to help bolster this rapidly growing category.”

Yemoja produces its algae heme substitute via a cold process in its GMP-certified facility without using any organic solvents. “We believe our algae can imbue cultured meat-cells with a nutrient-rich media to feed on. We are currently assessing its potential to act as a suitable biomaterial scaffold on which the cells can grow. This structure will allow it to mimic the behaviour of meat, especially when it hits the skillet,” noted Bar-Gil, adding that the ingredient can make up to 10 per cent of the end product.

Highly promising results thus far from pilot projects

The food-tech start-up is currently piloting its microalgae ingredient with one plant-based start-up and another cultured meat producer. Reported results so far have been highly promising.


Yemoja Ltd was founded four years ago by a team of marine biology and biotech experts with a shared vision of leveraging novel engineering methods to provide the commercial algae space with a prodigious range of high-value microalgae species that can be tailored to a full spectrum of applications – including cosmeceuticals, nutraceuticals and functional foods. The company has so far raised US$11 million in venture capital led by SIBF VC as it enters its round B in fundraising.  Yemoja is also part of a consortium that has been awarded a €7.5 million (US$8.9 million) grant from EU funding arm Horizon 2020 for an ongoing research project focused on developing an algae for IBD (Algae4IBD).

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