New duckweed ingredient enhances flavor, reduces sugar, benefits the environment

MicroTERRA, a Mexico-based startup, recently unveiled Flora, a sustainable ingredient derived from common duckweed, which can be used to elevate food and beverage products.

Cindy Hazen, Contributing writer

March 6, 2024

2 Min Read
common duckweed ingredient

At a Glance

  • Flora, a sustainable and natural ingredient extracted from Lemna minor, is a new ingredient from Mexico.
  • It acts as a flavor modulator in food and beverages, reducing sugar content and masking off-notes from artificial sweeteners.
  • Flora is highly nutritious, containing protein, vitamin B12, dietary fiber and other beneficial nutrients.

Flora, a new product from Mexican startup microTERRA, checks the boxes as an ingredient that is sustainable, good for you and good for the environment. Extracted from Lemna minor, known as common duckweed, Flora is 100% natural.

From a food development perspective, Flora acts as a flavor modulator. “This means it potentiates sweetness perception, enabling sugar reduction while maintaining functional properties like taste and texture in food and beverages,” Juan Rion, operations strategy manager at microTERRA, said.

Improved mouthfeel and texture may be achieved, while unwanted off-notes from artificial sweeteners are masked. As desirable flavors are enhanced, flavor costs are reduced. Rion gave the example of a strawberry ice cream that tastes more like strawberry with the inclusion of Flora. He suggests incorporating Flora at 0.1% to 0.4% in ice cream, sugar-sweetened beverages and plant-based foods.

Lemna minor is one of the world’s smallest known flowering plants. “It can grow almost anywhere, and it can double in mass every two days without competing for land or inputs,” Rion explained. “Lemna is considered one of the most sustainable and nutrient-dense plants. We grow Lemna, which absorbs large amounts of nitrogen from agricultural wastewater as it grows, and then [we] transform it into functional and sustainable ingredients like Flora. Producing 1 kilogram of Flora avoids the contamination of 165 cubic meters of water, equivalent to 1,000 bathtubs [full of water]. Ingredients like Flora allow brands to offset their water and carbon footprint.”

From a nutritional standpoint, “Lemna has been identified as a protein-rich source containing 40% to 45% crude protein, which is ten times more protein than soy,” according to Rion. He added it’s also a good source of vitamin B12, dietary fibers, phytonutrients and pigments. Because microTERRA has recently filed a provisional patent for Flora around composition, he could not share specific details of the nutritional profile of the extract quite yet.

Currently, Flora is available in Mexico. “We have been granted approval by COFEPRIS [Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios/Federal Commission for the Protection against Health Risks], the Mexican health authority,” Rion said. “This has allowed us to start commercializing our functional ingredients and kick off co-development projects with several Mexican food brands. We are currently in conversation with several large U.S. corporations running pilots to include our ingredients in their products, and expect our product to be available in the U.S. later this year (probably around Q3), once we have GRAS [generally recognized as safe] approval.”

About the Author(s)

Cindy Hazen

Contributing writer

Cindy Hazen has more than 25 years of experience developing seasonings, dry blends, beverages and more. Today, when not writing or consulting, she expands her knowledge of food safety as a food safety officer for a Memphis-based produce distributor.

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