Algal products maker Solazyme will divest its business in industrial chemicals and biofuels and focus instead on food, nutrition, and personal care ingredients. To better match its new emphasis, the firm will change its name to TerraVia.
The company’s product portfolio will be headlined by lipid-rich flours, protein powders, and specialty cooking oils derived from algae. It will continue to market algae oils to the personal care industry, including through its partnership with Unilever. Solazyme also plans to create a line of ingredients used in animal nutrition.
Solazyme was founded in 2003. In 2011, it was one of a handful of biobased industrial firms to go public. It raised $198 million on promises that its products, derived from algal oil, would be sold into the fuels and chemicals markets as well as more specialized applications. But like similar biobased firms such as Gevo and KiOR—which filed for bankruptcy in 2014— Solazyme has struggled to achieve profitability.
Solazyme did achieve a number of successes. With agribusiness partner Bunge, it scaled up its production of algae. The firms operate a facility in Brazil where the oil-rich organisms are fed sugar and multiply in large fermentation tanks. It also commercialized AlgalVia brand food ingredients and the Algenist line of high-end skin care products.
Now, a group of investors from the food industry—including the founders of Zico Coconut Water— have joined to provide $28 million in financing to help Solazyme’s transformation to TerraVia. CEO Jonathan Wolfson, a Solazyme cofounder, will be replaced by an executive with food industry experience. Wolfson has been named chairman of the board.