I love the flavours. Lime and Mint. Lemon and Ginger. White Peach.
Did I say it was blue? A lovely turquoise blue.
It’s climate-positive. It converts more CO2 into oxygen and nutrients than it emits in the production process, flipping the food industry’s process on its head. They call it CO2 recycling “because our spirulina is grown using CO2 that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmosphere by other industrial processes like beer brewing.”
It’s the original superhero. “For billions of years, the Spirulina (and broader group of algae) underlying FUL® has been gobbling up CO2 and converting it into essential oxygen and nitrogen – sustaining life on earth. In fact algae is responsible for producing over half the oxygen we breathe.”
FUL doesn’t require arable land, fertilisers, pesticides, or considerable fresh water and therefore avoids a lot of the damage caused by current sources of popular nutrition – deforestation, biodiversity loss, desertification and fresh water usage & pollution.
This miracle drink, Revive, seems to be the first soda made using spirulina, which has been around for a long time and can be bought in other forms as a dietary supplement.
A serendipitous lunch
Julia Streuli, Sara Guaglio and Cristina Prat met serendipitously over lunch in their first few weeks at INSEAD’s Singapore campus cafeteria. They discovered that their backgrounds, while different, were complementary. Streuli – social impact and technology, Guaglio family business manufacturing and Prat, corporate oil and gas. “These differences and nuances could help us produce something that was much better than the sum of our parts.”
They teamed up for a summer-long research project on sustainability in business that took them to Singapore, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Milan for more than 100 interviews with entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers. With funding from the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, they extended their research to explore innovations addressing climate change, including those in the food sector.
This led them to microalgae as a sustainable food source that could be grown in a highly resource-efficient manner, converting CO2 into oxygen, nitrogen and nutrients, produced with limited freshwater and without the use of arable land or fertilisers and pesticides.
Winning a business plan competition for their concept for a new spirulina-based brand just before graduation let them move to the Netherlands to work with food scientists and develop a patented new way to process the algae to extract the best-tasting parts.
“What makes us different is that we are involved in both consumer goods and the scientific community,” says Prat. “We have the potential to create innovations with a substance that, up until now, has only been available in the supplement aisle of the grocery store.”
While right now, most algae is grown with bicarbonate rather than captured CO2, producing the soda in breweries could create a closed loop system that would be both localized and also scalable world wide, says Streuli. Breweries produce food-grad CO2; bioreactors growing the algae could eventually capture that CO2 to feed the algae.
Today, in between producing Revive at a brewery in Netherlands, expanding distribution throughout Europe and working with a French facility to perform the biorefinery, the FUL Foods team has hired scientists focused on research and development for new products. They are exploring a variety of applications for microalgae.
“Right now, the beverage is a way to reach our target consumer in an efficient way,” says Prat. “But what we are also after is a process through which we can access many valuable components that can be extracted from the microalgae biomass — not one but multiple fractions — that could be used in consumer foods or commercialised for B2B partners.”
Revive is currently available in the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK; in the next two years, it is slated to reach North America, Asia and other European countries.
In the US, We Are The New Farmers is also promoting spirulina. “By farming algae and developing delicious products for the way we really live and eat today, we seek to build a circular future in which what we consume supports—rather than depletes—the planet we live on. Everyday, we work tirelessly toward closing the gap between that future and now.”
They cultivate spirulina in closed tanks in a 1,250 sqft facility in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in New York.
Why the future of soda is blue. Fast Company, Feb. 11, 2022.
Ful of Promise. Salamander, INSEAD alumni magazine. Nov. 16, 2021