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Startup Innovation Challenge

Start-up success for Alver - Mine Uran and Majbritt Byskov-Bridges [Interview]

Article-Start-up success for Alver - Mine Uran and Majbritt Byskov-Bridges [Interview]

Alver Golden Chlorella is a micro-algae product that meets consumers' demands for plant-based alternatives to traditional protein.

Recently algae has grown in popularity as consumers increasingly seek plant-based alternatives to traditional protein. Alver Golden Chlorella has developed a micro-algae product that’s worth your attention.

Alver Golden Chlorella was founded by Mine Uran, the former Head of Protein R&D at Nestlé, who has spent the past 20 years searching for the ideal non-animal protein and Majbritt Byskov-Bridges, who came from Wealth Management and was looking for sustainable funds. Although these ladies come from very different industries they share one objective: to make our world a healthier and more sustainable place.

Their endeavours were rewarded in 2017 when their Golden Chlorella won Best Natural Ingredient Award at the Fi Europe 2017 Start-up Innovation Challenge. This micro-algae product offers a high protein content combined with other nutritional qualities, while also being highly sustainable. The founders of Swiss-based start-up Alver talk about their journey to success and what makes Alver Golden Chlorella protein unique.

Can you briefly explain how Alver Golden Chlorella came together? What sparked the initial idea for your product?

Mine Uran founder and CEO of Alver Golden Chlorella, receiving Best Natural Award from the Fi Europe 2017 Startup Innovation Challenge

'The problem is that there is a growing need for non-animal proteins and nutrient-rich foods. Algae is an ideal solution but has previously been limited due to taste and colour. Alver Golden Chlorella is the solution, as it is neutral in taste and is yellow, making it possible for us to develop a range of finished protein-rich foods without having to change consumers' tastes nor mask the taste.'

At the moment the food industry trends are heavily focused on alternative proteins. How is your product different from others in the market? 

'Golden Chlorella has 63% protein (meat has 25%) and is rich in potassium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B. Chlorella is mostly known for boosting the immune system and for detoxifying the body, especially from heavy metals. Other benefits include brain maintenance, eye and skin health. It is also known to promote weight loss and lower blood sugar/cholesterol.'

Why do you believe consumers will reach for your product over the traditional already existing protein sources? 

'Alver Golden Chlorella is truly distinctive and innovative because of its neutral taste and lovely golden colour. This has been achieved through a natural fermentation process. It can easily be added to all foods without disrupting consumers’ eating or cooking habits. This unique product is effectively taking micro-algae from a complement to an easy-to-use daily ingredient that will improve both our health and carbon-footprint.'

Alver is highly focused on contributing to the reduction of water consumption in protein production around the world. How does golden chlorella production compare to traditional animal protein?

'The world’s population is growing fast and it is estimated there will be another 1 to 2 billion people on the planet by the year 2050, up from circa 7.5 billion today. At the same time, economic growth and individual wealth are shifting diets from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy, which require more water.''Producing 1 kg of rice, for example, requires about 3,500 litres of water, while 1 kg of beef needs approximately 15,000 litres. This change in diet has been the single most important factor impacting water consumption over the past 30 years, and is likely to continue well into the middle of the twenty-first century. Golden Chlorella is fermented to insure the highest levels of micro- and macro nutrients. The production is highly sustainable requiring 44x less water, 41x less arable land, and emits 36x less CO2 than for the equivalent of beef protein.'

As a start-up so far what have been your main challenges? What have you enjoyed the most?

'In an established company, we have different divisions and experts, in a startup we need to find out everything ourselves. This takes a lot of energy and time. We enjoyed seeing many investors and customers believing in our vision.

What is next for Alver Golden Chlorella?

'We are extending our product line to many new food products made with Alver. We have already done the protein bars, soups and sauces are also in line. Second big step will be pasta with Alver.'