Solein is a single cell protein product made by Solar Foods. It is made using hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria and is likely the first bacterial protein product for human consumption. It has already received regulatory approval in Singapore (September 2022) by the Singapore Food Agency. As far as I am aware Solein is the first bacterial single cell protein product that has received regulatory approval for human consumption. On the 25. of May 2023 people outside the company will for the first time be able to taste Solein as a food ingredient. However, according to Solar Foods, the first Solein production facility (Factory 01) located in Finland will be completed in 2024. Until then, production volumes are likely small and Solein will not be widely available.
Solein is branded as “[…] the purest and most sustainable protein in the world.” Its production requires renewable energy, air, nutrients, minerals and a bacterial strain. Renewable energy is used to split water molecules into hydrogen and is also needed to extract CO2 from the air. How renewable Solein exactly is will depend on details of Factory 01 that are not yet public knowledge. For example, it is not yet clear whether solar power really covers the entire energy demand and whether power generation is part of Factory 01 or whether it is bought through grid contracts. The company claims that their bioprocess is 20x more efficient than photosynthesis. Either way it is an extremely innovative way of producing food and I am excited to learn more details.
The exact bacterial strain used is not known but the company has released nutritional information. According to Solar Foods, Solein contains 65-70% protein, 5-8% fat, 10-15% dietary fibers and 3-5% mineral nutrients. It also contains all essential amino acids. We know however, that the bacterial strain is natural and was not genetically modified. It is therefore unlikely that Solein contains Vitamin B12 without fortification. The dried product itself is similar to a protein powder and can be used as an ingredient for anything from pasta to ice cream or can be directly processed into a tofu like consistency.
There are a few other companies trying to bring bacterial food to the human market. However, Solein is the first one that has received regulatory approval. People trying Solein for the first time will be an important step for microbial food production.