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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
Will consumers accept algal oil as a cooking substitute?
The first-ever algal cooking oil in the United States is now on shelves. Thrive’s Algae Oil offers numerous benefits, including a high smoke point, neutral taste, and, most importantly, a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat, giving consumers and chefs “a better choice for their everyday oil,” the firm says.
Created from chlorella algae, the zero-trans-fat algae oil serves as a drop-in replacement for other oils. “You can swap any oil you currently use in your recipes with Thrive Algae Oil. There’s no need to change the amount of oil you would typically use,” company representatives tell Nutritional Outlook. The “versatile” oil can be used for frying, baking, sautÃ©ing, searing, roasting, infusions, dressings, and more.
A key selling point is the oil’s healthfulness. Ninety percent of the oil (12 g per serving) comprises “good” monounsaturated fat, with less than 4% (0.5 g) comprised of saturated fat. That's up to 75% less saturated fat than olive oil. “In fact, 1 tbsp of Thrive Algae Oil has the same amount of monounsaturated fat as one whole avocado, one salmon filet, or 60 almonds,” the company adds.
The high monounsaturated fat content is also a benefit for cooking. “Because Thrive Algae Oil is high in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), it has an exceptionally high smoke point of 485°, meaning it can be used in all types of high-heat cooking,” the firm says.
It also tastes neutral despite its algae source, the company says. “It has a subtle, delicate taste that also lets the natural, fresh flavors of food shine through when you cook with it.”
Will consumers accept algal oil as a cooking substitute? Thrive says consumer feedback has been good so far. In home-usage tests, the majority of consumers said they liked algal oil and its “cleaner” flavor in food compared to other oils, the firm reports. Ninety-five percent said the texture of foods made with the oil was “just right,” and 93% called it easy to use.
For those concerned with sustainability, Thrive has a good story to tell. The production process is resource efficient; the algae is produced via fermentation in closed vessels, requiring little land use compared to other cooking oils.
The algae source will also interest consumers. “Contrary to popular belief, not all algae come from ponds or the ocean. We discovered our algae on the sap of a chestnut tree in Germany. This algae is naturally white,” the firm says. “There are thousands of different types of algae, and we spent years searching for the algae that was the best for the job-an algae that is already a source of oil and good fats.”
Thrive Algae Oil is currently sold in Los Angeles at Gelson’s grocery stores and on the company's website.
Story updated 10:34 a.m., December 11, 2015
Nutritional Outlook magazine