Seaweed is trending, but where do the opportunities lie?

Seaweed as an ingredient is tipped to trend in 2019. Hailed as the new superfood, seaweed is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Edible seaweed is an algae that comes in three forms: red algae, green algae, and brown algae. Different types of seaweed contain different vitamins and minerals. Some varieties, like arame, also contain iodine and tyrosine, which is good for the thyroid.

Common varieties of seaweed include nori (used in sushi), kombu (sold dried, or pickled in vinegar), and wakame (often served in soups and salads). The global production of seaweed exceeds lemons and limes. It is a good source of fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, pantothenic acid (a vitamin needed to metabolise food), niacin (good for cholesterol levels), phosphorus (which work with calcium to build bones), riboflavin (needed for growth), folate, calcium, iron, iodine (which helps the thyroid make hormones), magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. The downside is that seaweed has a lot of sodium, so it’s best to buy seaweed products that are lightly/no salted, and free from additives.

Seaweed butter is made by combining seaweed (either dried or in paste-form) with butter. Additional ingredients to add flavour include vinegar, soy sauce and mirin (a rice wine) if available. A number of seaweeds, including dulse and kombu, can be used for this recipe, which pairs well with toasted bread.

Kelp noodles are rich in calcium and suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They are made from the jelly-esque residue left after steaming kelp (large brown algae seaweeds). They originate from the Far East, and have been eaten in Japan for over 1,500 years. They’re also fat and gluten-free, and low in carbohydrates.

We ran Yes/No steers to ask our consumers if they would try seaweed products. We chose products in three different categories: crisps, oil, and dried seaweed used in cooking. These are the results:

The results show that just under half of our consumers are willing to try the crisps and the dried seaweed, and a promising 58% are willing to try the seaweed cooking oil. As seaweed products become more popular in Western cooking, more and more people are open to trying it out for themselves.

Seaweed looks like it’s here to stay, full of nutrition and being a healthy substitute for many calorie-dense foods. As manufacturers are trying to make seaweed products more accessible in a number of forms, consumers will have a wide range to choose from.

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