Thin air went into the making of this snack

Hidden within this chocolate is a new class of sustainable protein that's been cooked up using only air, water and electricity.

Thin air went into the making of this snack
source: Fazer

Finnish cellular agriculture startup Solar Foods has unveiled the first consumer product to feature its functional high-protein ingredient Solein which is fermented like wine from a microbe found in nature.

The Fazer Taste the Future chocolate snack bar is being sold in retail stores in Singapore – the first market to grant the novel protein developed by Solar Foods regulatory approval.

Solein, which is currently being manufactured in a pilot factory, originates from a natural, unmodified, single-cell organism and is created by a fermentation process that uses air and electricity as its primary inputs.

Fazer is a Finnish baker and confectioner and is also one of Solar Foods’ financial backers. Its limited-edition chocolate snack bars are being made in Helsinki, Finland, and are on sale as a part of a bundle offer at The Cocoa Trees stores.

Because Solein comes in the form of a yellow powder with a neutral flavour and contains 65 per cent protein as well as iron, fibre, and B vitamins, it offers food and beverage makers a new way to enrich existing products and may one day be used in plant-based meat alternatives.

"Our shared aim extends beyond this pivotal moment, targeting a wider scale European launch in 2025-2026 with a whole range of products."

The ingredient's sustainability credentials include using far less land and water than traditional meat and milk production, and it is also carbon negative, drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere during the production process.

The new snack bar, meanwhile, is vegan-friendly, palm oil free and contains 70% dark chocolate, hazelnut, dried strawberries and oat puffs. The recipe includes 2% of Solein which gives the snack bar iron.

Many snack products don’t contain high amounts of iron, an important nutrient for people on a vegan diet, according to Fazer Confectionery vice president of new product development, Heli Anttila.

"This isn’t something you find in a typical chocolate snack bar," Anttila says.

"At Fazer we are continuously looking for opportunities to innovate for a more sustainable future, which is also why we have invested in Solar Foods, the Finnish start-up behind Solein.”

Solar Foods says that Solein-powered foods are getting closer to market with the company’s first factory to begin operating in the first half of this year with production set to scale up to commercial levels.

The limited edition Fazer snack bar, meanwhile, represents a good test for future market roll-outs, according to Solar Foods co-founder and CEO Pasi Vainikka.

Nutritious potential

“This is an exciting moment for us working with Fazer – the very first time people can try Solein within a consumer snack bar. This demonstrates the potential of Solein also as a sustainable and nutritious fortifier," Vainikka says.

"With this introduction in Singapore, we are getting valuable customer feedback on Solein's viability in a new product category and also get a sense of the consumer acceptance of future ingredients."

Solar Foods is now seeking novel food approval for Solein in Europe and says it expects to receive this by the end of next year, according to Vainikka, with a wider-scale European launch expected in the next two years.

“Our shared aim extends beyond this pivotal moment, targeting a wider scale European launch in 2025-2026 with a whole range of products.”

The tech
Solein is a novel protein that is made from a natural, unmodified, single-cell organism found in nature in Finland. These microbes are grown into a protein powder using a bioprocess that feeds them with gases - carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen - and a small amount of nutrients. The process is similar to winemaking, but instead of using sugar as the source of carbon and energy, carbon dioxide and hydrogen are used. Because the process uses only a small amount of water and land, its production creates food "out of thin air", according to its maker, Solar Foods.