Nordic-Indian spirulina producer targets global growth with functional food and drink line
The company, a joint venture set up by CEO and director Aakas Sadasivam and partner and advisor Mika Rautio, currently sells its sun-dried spirulina to both consumers and finished product brands in Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and France.
The product comes in two formats: nibs / flakes and powder, both of which can be used in finished products, as well as added to food and drink.
Despite its exclusively European market, however, Prolgae manufactures the product in South India due to its low rainfall and high sunlight exposure, making it the ideal climate for drying and processing spirulina.
The spirulina is harvested early in the morning (between 4 AM and 5 AM), washed, machine-processed into 'noodles', sun-dried for four to five hours at 35 °C to 40°C, then broken into nibs; the powder form of the product is made by crushing the nibs.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Sadasivam said, "Unlike most other spirulina manufacturers, which use spray-drying in their processes, we use sun-drying. Spray-drying lowers the levels of protein and other nutrients in the spirulina, but sun-drying retains its nutrients and vitamins."
While the firm has seen steady growth in Europe so far, it says its next big goal is to fight malnutrition in India.
Sadasivam said: "Our main goal is to make healthy food available to everyone and in doing so, fight against malnutrition. We are now in the process of obtaining investment from Austria, and with this investment, we are planning to bring new products to market."
The new products in question consist of spirulina-enriched chocolate, chips, coffee and cookies for consumers.
Sadasivam also revealed that other variations of these products would eventually be developed, saying: "We are also conducting R&D on extracting omega-3 and phycocyanins from spirulina, so we can use these ingredients to develop dietary supplements in capsule and powder forms.
"In addition to our spirulina-enriched chocolate, cookies, coffee and chips, we also want to release versions of these products that are enriched with omega-3 or phycocyanins."
Phycocyanins are blue photosynthetic pigments present in spirulina, which reportedly possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective and anti-cancer properties.
Production and proliferation
In addition to making these products available to consumers in India, Prolgae plans to use them to further increase its presence in Europe, as well as to enter APAC and the Middle East.
In India, the company is set to launch both its sun-dried spirulina and consumer products on three online platforms initially: Amazon, Flipkart and its own web store. It will then launch in retail stores when it receives sufficient interest from distributors,
The same model will apply to its intended overseas markets — apart from Europe and the Middle East, its initial targets include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
Prolgae will first launch its sun-dried spirulina in APAC and Europe next year, followed by phycocyanin and ometa-3 powders in 2020, when it will also launch its functional products.
Sadasivam said, "We are currently sourcing for angel or venture capital funding, and once we secure the necessary funding, we will set up a production unit by end-2019 to manufacture these products for launch in 2020.
"For the next year or so, we will be selling our spirulina nibs and powder online."
He added that Prolgae also intends to significantly increase its production capacity over the next two years.
"We are currently producing 500kg of spirulina every month, but within the next two years, we are planning to increase our production by six times. By 2020, we will be producing about three tonnes of spirulina monthly."