From the origin of life to 3D printing: I ask for spirulina

3D food printing is a new and growing technology, which makes it possible to create and imagine personalized food. This is what a recent study explored, for the manufacture of gluten-free snacks enriched with microalgae.

Dietary 3D printing is a booming new technology which enables us to create and develop customised and customisable foods with complex shapes and textures. Some companies already offer food designed with additive manufacturing. Creative freedom is infinite thanks to 3D printing layer after layer, most often via an extruder syringe.

This is what a recent study explored for the manufacture of gluten-free snacks enriched with micro-algae.

Letras et al, the study authors, tried to develop 3D printed gluten-free snacks of nutritional benefit by incorporating 5 to 30% spirulina and chlorella.

The snacks are prepared with a dough made from cornflour and rice. Adding 5% of chlorella or spirulina enabled them to obtain better results in terms of pouring and texture. To no surprise, the snacks containing micro-algae are greener than the yellow control snacks and brighter.

The addition of 10% micro-algae does not seem impossible in future because the resulting dough reveals good rheological properties and a fairly free-flowing printing process. But the texture obtained had too many defects, such as reduced hardness and less expansion of the snack. The gluten network is therefore significantly impacted by the addition of a high percentage of micro-algae, in parallel to a reduction in the flour content: lower water and gas retention and a decrease in the snack’s expansion cavities.

Overall, the snacks containing 5% spirulina had the best nutritional and sensory performance, with higher antioxidant activity and mineral and protein content. This level of incorporation even enables the snacks even enables snacks to be labelled as a ‘source of protein’.

3D technology therefore enables to create original foods that can incorporate uncommon raw materials. Despite their unusual colour, the snacks containing spirulina were preferred by the panellists in terms of texture and taste. Now, they just need to convince the consumers!

Figure 1: examples of 3D printed snacks before cooking: control, 5% chlorella and 5% spirulina (Letras, 2021)


Letras P., Oliveira S., Varela J., Nunes M.C. and A.Raymundo. 3D printed gluten-free cereal snack with incorporation of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) and/or Chlorella vulgaris. Algal Research, Volume 68, November 2022.

Letras P., 2021. 3D printed gluten-free cereal snack with incorporation of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) and/or Chlorella vulgaris. Marine Biology Master, Universidade do Algarve.

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