A versatile, allergen-free and nutrient-rich protein made ‘out of thin air’

Move over plant or animal-based ingredients. Solein will be on restaurant menus soon, and it originates from a natural, non-modified, single-cell organism. Basically, air.

12 July 2023

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Photo Credit: Solar Foods

Did you ever imagine that one day you would be eating a meal that contains protein made from air? This unimaginable feat is about to be realised. Finland-based Solar Foods has created just that, a protein made from using carbon dioxide and electricity.

Solein, the new-age protein, is a product where clean tech meets food tech. The research team at Solar discovered a way to turn emission-free electricity and capture CO2 into edible calories.

In other words, growing food out of thin air.

The search for a sustainable source of protein is what led to the creation of Solar Foods, the company behind Solein, founded in Finland in 2017 by Dr. Pasi Vainikka and Juha-Pekka Pitkanen. 

Solein’s founders Dr. Pasi Vainikka (right) and Juha-Pekka Pitkanen (left) of

Finland-based Solar Foods | Photo Credit: Solar Foods

Photo Caption: Solein is a versatile powdered protein that vanishes into virtually any meal while simultaneously maintaining its nutrient density | Photo Credit: Solar Foods

“The rising demand for protein from livestock and poultry will damage human living conditions in the form of pollution, land exploitation and climate change that could be irreversible”, the company says.

Solein is a microbial powder that contains all the essential amino acids. It can be used to replace existing proteins in a variety of foods and as an alternative to dairy and meat. It has the potential to transform the sustainability, availability, and transparency of what we eat and where food can be produced.

Singapore is the first market to approve the use of Solein. The company has filed for approval in markets such as the EU and UK and the company plans to seek GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status assessment for Solein in the United States.

Solein is very versatile and can easily be infused into a variety of dishes with its mild aroma and notes of umami that hint at a nuttiness and creaminess. It’s already been successfully used to create a unique tasting menu. Solar Foods in collaboration with The Lo & Behold Group, Singapore’s leading hospitality provider, had a one-of-its-kind tasting event at the newly launched restaurant Fico. Curated by Chef Oliver Truesdale Jutras who teamed up with Michelin-starred Chef Mirko Febbrile, to create an entire tasting menu using Solein.

Food brands looking to replace traditional ingredients or protein sources in their products with more sustainable alternatives would introduce Solein to consumers. With expanded production capacity the cost will also see a significant drop.The small production volume Solar Foods is operating with now allows for moderate production volumes of limited-edition products, the company said.

Photo Caption: By offering a unified solution that caters to virtually every imaginable meal of today, Solein can replace the protein in any food | Photo Credit: Solar Foods

What is Solein?
Solein is produced using a bioprocess where microbes are fed with gases (carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen) and small amounts of nutrients. The bioprocess resembles winemaking, with carbon dioxide and hydrogen replacing sugar as the source of carbon and energy, respectively.
What is its nutritional value?
Solein is 65-70% protein, 5-8% fat, 10-15% dietary fibres and 3-5% mineral nutrients. The macronutrient composition of Solein cells is very similar to that of dried soy or algae. It provides iron and B vitamins and is exceptionally functional as it can be used with a wide variety of ingredients: it merges into foods and doesn’t change the taste of familiar, everyday food products.
Is this truly the world’s most sustainable protein?
The production of Solein is not reliant on agriculture, weather, or climate: it can be produced in harsh conditions such as deserts, Arctic areas, or even in space. The process does not require animals or photosynthetic plants, making Solein the world’s most sustainable protein.
Who is Solein for?
Solein will become available for commercial use in 2024. It is aimed at food brands looking for nutritious, functional, and sustainable protein ingredients of consistent quality that can be reliably delivered for their products.
If you are seeking an infinite supply of the most sustainably sourced protein that can be used to create delicious mouth-watering foods, then look no further than Solein.

Photo Credit: Solar Foods

Author: Pooja Thakur

Pooja Thakur is a senior journalist, writer, and editor with over 20 years of experience in print and digital media and in creating custom content for periodicals. She has been a long-serving senior reporter at Bloomberg News covering areas such as real estate, stocks and personal finance and inventing across markets with a focus on Southeast Asia and India. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, rucking and finding the newest watering hole in town.

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