Today’s Solutions: February 29, 2024

We’ve previously talked about the benefits of spirulina. Considered a superfood, blue-green algae have been touted for its high nutritional value. And although it has become popular as a supplement among wellness-focused people, the algae still hasn’t reached mainstream adoption. 

That may soon change, as a new Dutch soda brand has decided to popularize spirulina by creating a carbon-negative beverage out of it. Called Ful, the drink has a vibrant blue color, which is actually not its only appealing feature. The blue-green algae in the drink don’t only make it more nutritionally rich than a standard soda, but it also makes the refreshing beverage environmentally friendly.

“What I think particularly caught our imagination was how efficient it is at transforming CO2 into nutrients and oxygen,” says Julia Streuli, one of Ful’s three cofounders. Together with the other two founders, Streuli spent months exploring ways to help the global green transition before settling on blue-green microalgae.

Because the algae actually munch on CO2 as part of its growing process, the production process of Ful — which uses CO2 captured from industry — is actually carbon negative, according to the founders. On top of that, spirulina doesn’t require any arable land, pesticides, fertilizer, or the huge amounts of freshwater needed to produce most foods.

In addition to being a rich source of protein, the algae also boast high concentrations of nutrients like iron, vitamin C, magnesium, as well as antioxidants like chlorophyll, all of which make it into the drink.

Working with food scientists in the Netherlands, the creators have developed a new way to process the algae to extract its tastiest parts. Slightly salty, the final ingredient is actually “quite pleasant, and it pairs very well with other flavors,” says Streuli. As a bonus, the extraction process also makes it a distinct bright shade of turquoise, which comes from the chlorophyll in the algae, giving the drink its striking blue color.

The startup’s first limited batches, in flavors like peach and lemon, were made in a Dutch brewery. Since breweries produce food-grade CO2, the company is working to capture that CO2 to feed the algae. “Then you have this really wonderful closed-loop system that could be highly localized, but also scalable all over the world, using existing infrastructure,” Streuli says.

While the first runs of the new soda came in glass bottles, the next ones will be packaged in aluminum cans in an effort to achieve an even lower footprint. With that said, the end goal is to create the product in powder form to reduce waste even further.

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