Dutch researchers have found that adding even a small amount of seaweed to a food product makes consumers more likely to buy it, reports BakeryandSnacks.
The online study of 600 consumers found they were more likely to buy wraps that contained seaweed, but were just as interested in those that contained 5% seaweed as they were in options with 50% or 100% seaweed.
The researchers said consumers were convinced the wraps were healthy, convenient and tasty, but were more hesitant about the potential texture, aroma and flavor of the 100% seaweed version. They added consumers tended to think of seaweed as an eco-friendly ingredient, so food companies should focus on this aspect in their marketing.
Seaweed is a food ingredient on the rise. According to Innova Market Insights, sea vegetables such as seaweed, nori, kelp, and wakame saw 21% growth in new product launches from 2012-2016, and are set to become a major trend in Western markets. Seaweed products are well positioned to take advantage of a number of current food trends, including plant-based diets, exotic ingredients, and environmentally friendly foods.
For food manufacturers looking to cut their carbon footprint, seaweed is carbon negative, absorbing carbon dioxide from the sea. It is also fast-growing and requires no fresh water or fertilizer. However, despite widespread familiarity with seaweed in Asian dishes such as sushi, miso soup and seaweed salad, the distinctive umami taste could be a hurdle for some U.S. consumers, especially in more Western-style foods.
Nevertheless, a range of seaweed-based foods is starting to take off, including “sea spaghetti” from firms like Seamore Foods, Atlantic Kitchen, Wild Irish Seaweeds and Mara Seaweed – which also aim to take advantage of demand for gluten-free foods. And seaweed-based snacks are also hitting shelves, such as kelp jerky from New York-based start-up Shoreline, and seaweed chips from Ocean’s Halo.
According to Mintel, the ingredient’s popularity may have some way to go before it hits the mainstream in North America, but the market research organization predicts a big future for seaweed based on its abundance of natural vitamins, minerals and plant-based protein.
Beyond food, seaweed could also have potential in packaging. Indonesia-based company Evoware has introduced a dissolvable, flavorless wrapper made from seaweed for individual seasoning sachets and coffee packets, intended to appeal to consumers concerned about the environmental impact of their food and drink choices.