Seaweed is Going Mainstream - Part 3

Brown, greed and red seaweed in its natural environment

Brown, greed and red seaweed in its natural environment

We continue our series of posts from around the world, charting the move of seaweed into the mainstream of people's diets.

Within the last two weeks, two articles have emerged from different parts of the planet about the commercial potential of seaweed. Firstly, In Australia, the Brisbane TImes highlights the push for a new 'superfood' seaweed industry.

University of the Sunshine Coast researchers point to unique fibres in the seaweed that help with the human digestive system. They also stress that it's high in the right minerals like zinc and iron, as well as restricting the growth of algae by stripping out nutrients that enter the sea from agriculture run-off. The University sees a gap in the market and is keen to promote the creation of a seaweed manufacturing industry which has not yet happened due to the supply of it from the far more established seaweed-eating region of Asia.

Secondly, in the USA, The Huffington Post carried a story which touted seaweed as a superfood which could help a ballooning population and help the environment. The article notes the hippie origins of seaweed that never caught the imagination of the general public, while also forecasting increased attention from the mass market as its health benefits become better known. The global seaweed market is forecast to be around €9 billion by 2024, although Asia, the traditional home of seaweed-as-regular-food, accounts for the majority of it.

While the potential to feed the world and heal the planet is considerable, one HuffPost interviewee stops short of predicting a major surge in seaweed consumption in the US, however, saying. 'taste is a bit of a hurdle. Seaweed is, unfortunately, not delicious.' Americans are struggling to increase their intake of vegetables generally, so expecting them to embrace the sea vegetable in their droves is optimistic.

In conclusion, perhaps the title of this series is a little misleading. Maybe seaweed will never be mainstream, except in Japan and other parts of Asia. It's not projected to be an industry of titanic proportions in the next few years. But that's taking into account products that are pretty much all seaweed, which could remain niche to western palates for our lifetimes. What will go mainstream, however, is the use of seaweed - sparingly and in the right balance - in everyday food, from breads to pastas, soups, soups, cheeses, sauces, chocolates and a host of foods we haven't even got to yet. People will embrace seaweed-infused food if they don't taste the sea and they know they get the health benefits. And, if they don't have to go through the painstaking processes of selecting the right amounts of the right types of seaweed, drying them and then putting them into their food in the right quantities, then so much the better.

In the interests of disclosure, it may not surprise you to know that smRt already produces seaweed ingredient blends for the food industry.

Get in touch if you'd like to see some sample seaweed ingredients and for recipe ideas.