Discovering the taste of the future
Senior Specialist, Product Development
In our video series, we introduce the members of Solar Foods’ core team and explain how the production of super protein Solein® breaks free from the chains of agriculture. As a proud “Liberator of Protein Production,” Anna Häkämies develops Solein in her test kitchen.
Anna Häkämies works as a Senior Specialist in Product Development for Solar Foods—and fully acknowledges that her job is not exactly your average 9-to-5.
Anna’s domain is the test kitchen where Solar Foods’ protein—Solein—is truly put to the test over and over again, finding the admired form, structure, mouthfeel, and taste for future Solein products. What exactly is Solein, you may ask?
Solein is a unique single-cell protein that is born from a mind-blowing bioprocess using only electricity and air. The cell originates from nature and it is grown through a fermentation process similar to the production of yeast; this is the purest, most sustainable protein in the world.
In Anna’s kitchen, Solein is, among other things, heated, cooled, reheated, subjected to pressure, while various ingredients are added and subtracted. It’s a very hands-on process where you try out anything and everything you can think of.
“There are those very joyous, inspiring moments when you discover something new—and that feels amazing,” she says.
Neutral in taste and appearance, Solein vanishes into your daily meal, while simultaneously maintaining its rich nutritional value. Solein can offer a ground-breaking nutrition solution that caters to virtually every imaginable meal of today – thus creating a dazzling world of opportunities for entirely new foods. In the future, Solein can be a sustainable replacement for the proteins used in the foods you know and love.
According to Anna, when getting familiar with a completely new ingredient such as Solein, the vital need is to keep pushing the envelope: “wow, Solein can do that, too, now how about we try this?”
“I’ve found that most ideas that come flashing into your brain you just have to try out,” she says.
Anna has been tinkering with Solein for quite some time already and is very impressed by it:
“Solein is remarkable in the sense that it tastes great and is so versatile—there are so many products you can make out of it.”
Anna acknowledges that there are challenges to overcome along the way, too, but the sheer wonder of Solein has left a lasting impression so far.
“When the work is at its most intense, I feel that Solein is letting me in and somehow telling me what it is all about. It is truly quite magical,” she describes the process where the secrets of the new ingredient are revealed, one by one.
Eye on industry
In her work, Anna studies how different structures come to exist: for example, if we add a pinch of salt, can we make Solein more gelatinous?
One constant challenge is mimicking industrial-scale production in a decidedly small-scale operation—sometimes it takes a lot of imagination to pull this off. And, as always, when it comes to food development, there are many issues to consider: structures, flavour, nutritional value, shelf-life, packaging, scalability, and so on.
According to Anna, the number one thing is, and always will be, taste. Without great taste, you don’t have anything to build on, she points out.
Learn all you can
Another key point is, obviously, knowing your material inside and out. In the case of Solein, the various qualities of a new ingredient come under scrutiny time after time, since all data is valuable at this phase of development.
Linking with the ingredient itself, Solar Foods always has to be mindful of the food production technology that is required to make, for example, silky smooth drinks or a food bar from Solein. It is technology, after all, that enables the company to make these products.
And where is Solein going next? – Anna says that Solar Foods has a good vision of what Solein is and what it can do.
“We’ve found that we can make it meat-like, for example.” Overall, there are about 20 product ideas that have been developed intensively, and many more products are being drafted as we speak.
Pipeline heating up
Solein not only provides natural protein for a wide range of existing and future foods but also does it in a more energy-efficient way than ever before. By offering a platform that disconnects food production from agriculture, Solein is setting the new standard for environmentally friendly foods.
With such a unique ingredient to work on, it’s easy to see why Anna is excited. As Solar Foods’ pipeline prepares for developing even more Solein products, the idea of enjoying foods filled with sustainable protein is no longer a pipe dream: they’re already on their way.