These Israelis are putting the “burger” back in “veggie burger”


Yemoja’s new microalgae will make veggie burgers look red and juicy. Photo courtesy of Yemoja

Naama Barak , Israel21c

It’s an unfortunate truth that vegetarian burgers often suffer from a somewhat dry texture. But now, thanks to an innovative use of microalgae, herbivores are also getting a chance to sink their teeth into what looks and feels like a bloody, oozing piece of meat.

Israeli startup Yemoja recently developed a cruelty-free formulation that mimics the juices of red meat using deep a deep red microalgae strain.

“While working on a new formulation for cosmetic applications, we serendipitously discovered that this specific composition yields a substance that resembles blood in appearance and texture,” explained Yemoja cofounder and CTO Amikam Bar-Gil.

“Encouraged by the first test results, we decided to push the boundaries further and take it to the next level, trying it out in test products. The results were an immediate proof of concept.”

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Yemoja cultivates pure, standardized microalgae serving the nutraceutical and cosmetics B2B sectors. Manipulation of light, temperature and pH yield high concentrations of bioactive compounds with minimal ecologic footprint and without contaminants.

According to the company, the plant-based meat industry often uses beetroot juice or other color additivities to turn meat substitutes an attractive red color in their raw form, but these don’t always keep their color in the cooked stage. To achieve the juicy look, companies often use sugars.

Yemoja’s solution browns up when sizzled and also congeals like real meat juices.

“We found the polysaccharides within this particular algae species express a viscosity similar to gelatin when cooked. Its natural fiber also awards an appealing crunchiness and emits an appetizing meaty aroma,” Bar-Gil noted.

The startup is now piloting its microalgae ingredient with one plant-based startup and another cultured meat producer and is reporting promising results. Who knows, it might soon come to an appetizing-looking veggie burger near you.