Consultancy Alcimed said France was the world’s 10th biggest algae supplier behind the likes of China, Indonesia and the Philippines with an annual output of about 70,000 tonnes.
The nation imports another 125,000 mostly Asian algae to meet demand for foods, drinks, food supplements along with cosmetic products, cleaning products, animal nutrition and more.
“In France, there is still too little algae production,” Alcimed observed of forms like spirulina and chlorella.
Anne-Claire Lapie, Alcimed agri-food project manager, said "Algae can be used in many applications throughout the agri-food value chain, and an increasing number of participants, whether large corporations or start-ups, are positioning themselves in this market."
Lapie said better structure was needed across the sector with players like French ingredients giant Roquette and suppliers in Brittany like Algosource Technologies, Algolesko and Olmix.
"Even though the increased demand for algae in France generates strong interest from certain parties, it also brings challenges to be faced at every level of the algae sector.”
It is estimated 75% of the world’s algae production is used for food purposes including nutrients and texturants.
A project – ULVANS (ULves VAlorisation Nutrition Santé), has invested €10m to promote algae in Brittany, “from harvest to conversion into innovative products.”
This company, which devotes 5% of its budget to R&D, has invested around 10 million euros in this project, which fits into the overall objective of promoting the sector.
"Above and beyond these initiatives, some consumer education will also be necessary because algae are not a traditional part of French food culture," said Lapie.
Roquette has a partnership with French start-up Algama which has a spirulina water and is launching an algae tofu.
Other microalgae players include Allma, Arora, Solazyme and DSM-Martek.