Seaweed swell: European interest turns tide in superfood’s favour?

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Long considered a staple food in the Far East, seaweed and algae may finally be making gains in Europe with consumers eager to sample a nutritionally superior food with strong sustainable qualities.

The ingredients were well represented at Vitafoods with Irish ingredients supplier Marigot showcasing its award-winning​ seaweed-derived, multi-mineral complex, Aquamin.

Seaweed and Co were also on hand to discuss the seaweed it supplies to Gee Lawson’s GEESEANUTRA organic seaweed – a supplement that can be used as salt replacement in food.

“Seaweed is new to us but worldwide it is a very old industry,”​ said Dr Craig Rose, managing director of Seaweed and Co.

“We’re seeing mainstream food brands start to embrace the benefits of seaweed, the trace elements, the minerals and the flavours it can bring as well as the functionality of salt replacement it can bring.”

“What we’re trying to do is move it beyond the Western perceptions of just sushi and Asian cuisine to something that is very convenient like a sachet, smoothie or capsule or even into baked goods.”

While the majority of seaweed products are launched in the Asia Pacific region—88% of global product launches between 2011 and 2015—Mintel identified Europe as having released 7% of the total in this period.

The figures are an increase on both North America and Latin America, with four and one percent respectively.

The nutritional powerhouse of seaweed has been a positive for Nexira and its weight loss aid, ID-alG.

This brown seaweed extract is derived from Ascophyllum nodosum​, an algae rich in long chain polyphenols which inhibit the activity of the two digestive enzymes, making it useful in weight management.

“Nowadays, the media, consumers and industrials talk more about seaweed,”​ a spokesperson for Nexira said.

“These ingredients have large nutritional benefits, depending on the variety. It could be a fat and carb blocker, such as the extract used in our ID-alG, or it could rich in protein as spirulina and so on.”

Very much like marine-based products featured at the show, the issue of sustainability and traceability was very much a talking point amongst attendees.

The feeling was accountability of the supply chain was as much of a request for consumers as the nutritional profile of the ingredient.

“A fully traceable supply chain is important because consumers want more transparency and more proximity with ingredients,”​ Nexira’s spokesperson commented.  

“Product origin is something really important because it would help telling a story to consumers and it would reassure consumers.”

“The fact our brown algae comes from Brittany, France and is also processed in France is a high quality marker.”

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