Adam Noble, founder and CEO of Noblegen, gives us some insight into creating nutrient-dense protein out of naturally occurring Euglena gracilis and explains why it’s a healthier, more potent protein than other vegan options.
Growing up, I was always obsessed with science and my parents are both veterinarians. They would bring their microscopes home on weekends and I’d take one down to the lake and use it to look at interesting things. That’s where I first started to learn about Euglena.
In high school, I did a few science fair projects that revolved around Euglena and its ability to remove metal particles from water, and that research eventually led to the founding of Noble Tech. At Noble Tech, when we were cleaning water, a scientist that was researching for us discovered that the bi-product of our water filtration process was a nutritional powder that could be used as a food ingredient.
Soon after, we made the transition into the food and beverage industry and started to dive deeper into Euglena and what we could make with it.
Euglena gracilis is a single-celled microorganism that can be found in bodies of water, almost anywhere in the world. It’s super unique and has been around for billions of years. Animals and plants evolved from Euglena and similar microorganisms; therefore we like to refer to them as the “original animals” and the “original plants.
This is what separates Euglena protein from other plant-based proteins. It has a similar nutritional profile to animal proteins – which are considered the gold standard – but it can be classified as a plant-based or vegan protein because it isn’t an animal.
When it comes to studying Euglena, most of the literature stops in the 1950s. Scientists at the time didn’t understand what it was, and didn’t know how to properly classify it, so they cast it aside. We picked up where they left off and we’ve been fortunate to discover so many new and exciting things that Euglena can do.
We’re primarily a B2B company that sells ingredients cultivated from our Euglena source. Currently, we have the Protein-Rich Euglena Flour and Euglena Beta-Glucan Isolate available for purchase. By the end of the year, we’ll be offering samples of our Euglena Protein Concentrate as well as value-added ingredients like Euglena Protein Crisps and Texturized Euglena Protein.
A couple of years ago we revealed our first B2C product under our Eunite Foods brand. It was a powdered, plant-based egg alternative called The Egg. We’re currently reformulating it with plans to release a liquid version in 2022. We also plan on being in the meat and dairy alternatives space in the future.
It’s naturally rich in complete plant-based protein, immune-supporting beta-glucan, and other important vitamins and minerals. It has high digestibility and a PDCAAS range (protein quality) that’s very similar to whey or egg protein, and is superior to most market-available plant-based proteins.
The pros of eating Euglena are enormous for both people and the planet. In an academic article written by Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek, they argue that reducing the consumption of red meat and dairy in American households can have a significant effect on reducing food’s environmental impact.
In their article, they show that the average American household’s food emissions are around eight tonnes of CO2eq per year. If the average household substituted their calories from red meat and dairy to plant-based alternatives just once a week, they would save 0.46 tonnes of CO2eq per year.
If we can provide delicious plant-based alternatives made with Euglena, that people feel comfortable and confident eating two or three times a week instead of red meat and dairy, we could take up to 1.38 tonnes of CO2eq per household out of the atmosphere each year, without having to ask people to stop eating meat altogether.
Euglena is a new and novel ingredient in North America, and as with any new concept, consumer acceptance may be a potential obstacle. We feel like our timing couldn’t be better though. Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for options.
Plant-based meat, dairy, and egg alternatives are being embraced by not only vegetarians and vegans but also flexitarians and reducetarians. Consumers want to buy food products made with naturally nutritious and sustainable ingredients; Euglena certainly fits that mold and we are confident consumers will embrace it.
We have our own fermentation facility in Peterborough, ON, Canada – it’s one of the largest of its kind in North America. When we start to expand on a global level our goal is to utilize existing fermentation facilities all over the world to take advantage of local supply chains and facilities closer to the companies that will be using our ingredients in their products.
Euglena’s unique characteristics are all natural, therefore there’s no genetic modification required when it comes to cultivating our ingredients. In fact, our Euglena ingredients are non-GMO Project Verified as of January 2021.
It starts with changing the way we feed the world. Right now, we have a very linear, unsustainable global food system – 26% of all human-generated greenhouse gas emissions come from our food system. As an industry, we need to be better.
Most of the emissions come from animal agriculture. The water and land needed to cultivate a herd of cows, for example, is astronomical compared to plant-based proteins. One of our goals is to provide efficient, sustainable alternatives to inefficient products derived from animals. Euglena, with all of its unique characteristics, will absolutely be a contributor to lowering the food industry's carbon footprint and that’s our first step in reinventing the future.
The next steps will be up to our amazing scientists and researchers to discover. But we’re confident that digital biology and harnessing the incredible power of microorganisms will change the world for the better in the coming years.