The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity




January 24, 2010

Solazyme, Inc. produces clean and scalable high performance biofuels, industrial chemicals and health and wellness products from algae. Their oils and biofuels address a range of issues, from fuel scarcity to energy security, while fitting into the pre-existing infrastructure. We spoke to Mike Golembieski, General Manager of Nutritionals for Solazyme, about the growing need for renewable energy solutions.

How does the algae conversion process work and what are the benefits?

Solazyme’s unique microbial fermentation process utilizes natural algae strains to produce food ingredients in standard fermentation facilities quickly, efficiently, and at large scale. We use microalgae grown with simple carbohydrate feedstocks to produce algal flour and oil that are low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat, free of tran-fats and cholesterol, and high in dietary fiber and antioxidants. When used in full or partial replacement of full-fat lipids (like eggs, butter and oil) in a wide variety of formulated food products, significant reduction in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol can be achieved, coupled with the addition of valuable micronutrients and dietary fiber. In addition to nutritional improvement, the products also provide a number of functional benefits such as enhanced sensory qualities in low-fat formulations, and improved moisture retention in challenging applications such as gluten-free recipes.

What are the challenges of converting algae into fuel or food?

On the fuel side, our main challenge right now is to continue to scale up and drive down the cost of production to be at parity with fossil fuels (i.e., $60-80$ a barrel) in the next 24 to 36 months. The great news is that on the food side we are already selling into the supplement market and expect to be selling our algal-derived food ingredients to the larger food market later this year.

There are a lot of energy technologies out there. Which is the bigger competitor for biofuels?

It is going to take more than one approach to tackle energy issues. We actually don’t see these varying technologies (incumbent coal, oil and gas technologies or other alternative energy technologies) as direct competition. In fact, we see them existing together, and actually in some cases, complimenting each other. For example in the liquid transportation arena we believe that for personal transportation needs like commuting to work and getting around town it makes sense to use electric vehicles run on clean electricity from wind, solar and geothermal, not gasoline. We focus on developing diesel and jet fuels because the industries that use them will likely not be able to replace their heavy duty liquid transportation fuels anytime in the near future. By offering a cleaner, sustainable alternative like Soladiesel or Solafuel Jet that have a 90% reduction in Green House Gas emissions and a 30% reduction in fuel emissions over even today’s petroleum based ultra low sulfur diesel, we can make strides in slowing global warming while reducing the particulates and air pollution that plague our industrial areas.

How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?

Solazyme’s business model is fundamentally based on the efficient conversion of environmentally sustainable feedstocks in the renewable production of not only food ingredients, but also fuels, chemicals, and health science products. So, by definition, the company’s product platform is based on sustainable business practices.

What can retailers learn from your success?  

We are excited by the reception that we’ve received thus far in the food industry. We are not working directly yet with retailers. Instead, we are focused on working with potential food ingredient partners to incorporate this amazing food ingredient to produce healthier products that taste great. Solazyme’s edible algal products provide compelling solutions to consumer demand for natural food ingredients that provide great taste and outstanding sensory attributes while offering a healthier nutritional profile and cost effectiveness when compared to the use of conventional ingredients.

Phil Lempert’s Public Television special, Food Sense, is premiering this month at the N.G.A. Convention in Las Vegas on February 10th, 2010. If you are planning to attend, we hope that you will join us there and stay for the Q&A following the screening. For more info, click here:

Also, in upcoming issues, we will continue to feature interviews with companies that are taking innovative steps toward the creation of sustainable products and services. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing please contact Allison Bloom at