The algae industry is showing stunning flexibility and potential as it pushes into health foods, beauty and personal care products, animal feed and soil amendments, according to a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance report.
The enormous potential revenue for algae-based fuel has traditionally attracted a lot of excitement in the sector. Algae present a unique opportunity to synthesize fuel without diverting food crops. However, with the recent decrease in petroleum prices, algae businesses are pivoting to auxiliary markets, which have room to grow.
Algae can be a low-cost, vegan source of protein, replace fats and oils usually found in dairy, and be turned into feed for fish and livestock. According to the Bloomberg report, algal proteins and other supplements could tap a market worth $20 billion, food oils worth $1 billion in the short run, and feed up to a combined $379 billion in years to come. Times of plenty may be just around the corner.
A few companies, notably Solazyme, are successfully entering the beauty and personal care sector with premium-level products. High-echelon products account for over a fourth of the $80 billion beauty market, with over one-third of potential sales in North America.
By diversifying product lines and widening R&D, the algae industry can thrive in volatile markets.
Curry, C., Cadavid, A. Z., Zindler, E. (2015) Algae biofuel and biochemical markets: where is the money? Bloomberg New Energy Finance.