‘Protein out of thin air’: World-first chocolate promises high-iron, high-fibre option for vegan and health-conscious consumers

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Fazer has launched the world’s first chocolate made using ‘protein out of thin air’ in Singapore. ©Fazer
Fazer has launched the world’s first chocolate made using ‘protein out of thin air’ in Singapore. ©Fazer

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Finnish food company Fazer has launched the world’s first chocolate made using ‘protein out of thin air’ in Singapore, citing its high iron and fibre content as attractive for vegan and health-conscious consumers.

The ‘protein out of thin air’ in question is Solein, developed by foodtech company Solar Foods, which Fazer is a major investor and stakeholder in. Solein obtained regulatory approval as a novel food product from the Singapore Food Agency in 2022.

Fazer is one of Finland’s most well-known chocolate brands, and is best known for its Geisha and KarlFazer brands in the Asia Pacific region. The firm has dubbed this novel chocolate ‘Taste the Future, highlighting its status as the first ever FMCG product to utilise Solein.

“We felt that with such a novel ingredient it was important to focus on a product format that consumers are familiar with, and since Fazer is best known for our chocolate it made sense to formulate in this format first,”​ Fazer Corporate Ventures Senior Manager Siiri Pihlainen told FoodNavigator-Asia​ at its first tasting event in Singapore.

“With the addition of Solein, Taste the Future is one of the only chocolates available that are fortified with high iron content as the process of fermenting and generating the protein itself leads to the production of iron.

“What’s important here is that we are also marketing this as a vegan product, and vegan consumers tend to face a lack of iron due to their diets and need to take supplements to make up for this – now, this iron can be consumed in a much more enjoyable form, i.e. chocolate.”

According to Solar Foods CXO Laura Sinisalo, Solein’s high-iron characteristic came naturally from the production process.

Most (if not all) of the life on the planet needs iron for biological functions, including humans, as the protein haemoglobin in red blood cells responsible for delivery of oxygen to the tissues contains about 70% of the iron in the body,”​ she told us.

“Similarly, the Solein microbe also needs iron to grow, therefore we provide iron to it in the growth media, wherefrom the microbe sources it - This iron has nutritional benefits in the human diet,  especially for those who do not consume animal products.”

That said, Fazer is not looking to only target the vegan consumers but a more general health-conscious clientele as well.

“We are not only looking to target just one subset of consumers and have worked to create a novel chocolate product that would appeal to consumers that are overall looking for healthier product options which still appeal to the senses – so we have also added oat puffs to Taste The Future to give that added crunch and popping mouthfeel,” ​Pihlainen added.

“One additional health benefit that has come with this is the product becoming high in fibre as well – and this added functionality is something we know health-aware consumers as well as early adopters of new food innovations would be interested in.”

The trouble with commercialising a product with such a novel component is undoubtedly all the unknown factors surrounding it, and Fazer has found this to be no different with what it is attempting to do in Singapore.

“This is a completely novel and new type of food that is not in the market anywhere, so we are definitely unsure of how consumers are going to react, whether it is something they really want to try, or might be hesitant to even go near due to the newness,”​ she added.

“So this initial introduction of Taste The Future is really to increase our understanding of what consumers want – it could be that chocolate might not be where they want to be see this protein, and there might be other products in which they want more iron or protein, perhaps categories such as bakery products or beverages or cereals.”

When asked about what the price point for Taste The Future would be in retail, Pihlainen declined to reveal any specific numbers or even ranges, but stressed that such products would aim to ‘target a wider audience, hence the price must be reasonable.”

solein
Solein pre- and post-application. ©Fazer

Making protein from air

One of the main points of appeal for Solein – and thus Taste The Future – is from a sustainablility point of view, as the protein is made by fermentation in a bioreactor where a microorganism (unnamed for IP purposes) is fed air and electricity alongside nutrients so that it multiplies and generates Solein cells which are up to 70% protein and 5% minerals (such as iron, phosphorus and calcium).

According to Solar Foods, the process is 20 times more efficient than photosynthesis and 200 times more efficient than meat production.

“This form of bioprocessing does not require land, which means it can create an infinite food supply [without] any slaughter of animals, cleared forests, pesticides, or fertiliser runoffs,”​ she said.

“Solein contains all nine essential amino acids and provides iron, fibre and B vitamins – it has already been successfully tested in multiple foods with different tastes and textures, ranging from alternative meat to noodles to ice cream.”

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