Image credit: Solar Foods
Consumers in Singapore can now buy ice cream made with Solein – an animal-free protein grown from a single cell using hydrogen and carbon dioxide, developed by Finnish foodtech company Solar Foods.
The chocolate-flavoured gelato is the first Solein-based product to be sold to the public since the company received regulatory approval to sell the ingredient in Singapore in October 2022. It is available at Fico, an Italian restaurant owned by the Lo & Behold Group which runs several restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels in Singapore.
Together with the restaurant’s chef team, Fico’s Chef-Partner Mirko Febbrile developed the recipe for the ice cream which replaces dairy with Solein powder. The ingredient is said to carry notes of umami and delivers a nutty taste and creamy texture when paired with the chocolate flavour.
“It is a remarkable opportunity to be the first chef team to introduce a one-of-a-kind ice cream to the world”, Febbrile said in a statement. “It combines the familiar delicious taste we all love with a unique ingredient produced without relying on traditional agriculture. Exploring Solein’s versatility has been an incredible journey; we’ve experimented with its potential, creating dishes ranging from miso soups, pasta, sauces, and desserts. Replacing dairy with Solein in this chocolate gelato, we were able to craft a vegan ice cream without compromising on its creaminess.”
He added: “As a chef, I believe strongly in making food sustainable and responsible. Solein opens up opportunities for us to reimagine the food chain in a way that benefits our planet, without compromising the dishes and flavours we love.”
In its natural form, the microbial protein-rich powder has a yellow colour, which originates from the beta-carotene it contains. The team at Fico however were able to develop a gelato containing no visible signs of Solein, with the colour coming primarily from the chocolate.
Solar Foods CCO, Shilei Zhang explained: “If you didn’t know, you could not guess this gelato includes an entirely new, unique, and nutritious ingredient just by tasting it. It looks, feels and tastes just like any other Italian gelato – and that is exactly the idea. Solein is the ‘Intel inside’ of the food industry”.
With ice cream being incredibly popular in Singapore, the new product is “a perfect fit for this market”, added Zhang. “Chocolate is also one of the most popular flavours in ice cream across the world, so it is easy to adapt to local tastes.”
The news comes following the first tasting of the novel ingredient, which took place earlier in May at the same restaurant. Mirko Febbrile worked together with Chef Oliver Truesdale-Jutras to develop a tasting menu for the event.
The new ice cream is the first of many Solein-based foods to come, according to Solar Foods. Last month, the company announced a strategic alliance with Japanese food group Ajinomoto – its first partnership with a global food brand. The alliance includes an agreement from Ajinomoto to develop products with Solein and conduct a marketability study in Singapore starting in the first quarter of 2024.
Both companies also hope to expand their cooperation to countries outside of Singapore, but this will depend on whether Solar Foods receives the regulatory approval it needs to sell Solein in other regions. It is currently preparing to apply for Generally Recognised As Safe (GRAS) status assessment in the United States, and has already filed applications for novel food authorisation in the US and European Union.
Factory 01, the company’s new facility being built in Finland, is expected to be completed in 2024, allowing Solar Foods to start producing Solein on a commercial scale.