U.K. startup SeaChips is selling salmon skin chips as an alternative to potato chips and pork rinds, according to Food Navigator. The product is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, has no carbs, and uses salmon skins that would otherwise go to waste, the company said.
SeaChips co-founder Daniel Pawson told Food Navigator when he and co-founder Dom Smith were working in restaurants, they noticed salmon skins were being tossed out. "We saw the amount of waste being thrown away and so instead of throwing the skin away, we decided to dehydrate it and bake it, using it as a garnish for dishes. Customers would love it so much they asked us if we could bag it up for them so they could take it home," Pawson recalled.
SeaChips are very thin, light and slightly curved, with a texture like prawn crackers, he said. The salmon skins are washed and boiled before cooking to get rid of the fishy taste and are offered in three flavors: lightly salted, salt & vinegar and lime & chili.
High-end meat snacks have seen a surge in popularity, but they are mostly made from meats more familiar to the U.S. consumer: beef, chicken, pork and turkey. The brands that do branch out into more exotic fare, such as bison and wild boar, are still sourcing from mammals — not fish.
SeaChips are being sold at Whole Foods Market outlets in the U.K., as well as Harrods and Fenwick, but the company is now focused on expanding to China, Australia, France, and possibly Scandinavia before bringing the product to the U.S.
The company told Food Navigator it plans to expand to export markets where consumer tastes may be more open to innovative foods. Meanwhile, SeaChips have attracted about $325,000 in investment so far, and the company has constructed new machinery to speed up production.
Co-founder Daniel Pawson acknowledged that SeaChips could elicit a "yuck" factor from some people, but he noted that consumers are curious about the product and, if they like fish, "most people love them." The company is aiming the product at pub snack consumers who usually reach for roasted or fried pork rinds or potato chips. He told Food Navigator that while some may find the salmon crisps off-putting, "... fish skins are very clean and nutritious whereas we seem to have no problem eating healthy pig skin which rolls around in mud all day!"
It's hard to tell whether U.S. consumers would be keen on SeaChips until they hit the American market, but generally, U.S. consumers seem more interested in specialty meat snacks and jerky products than they do more exotic products. Jerky sales hit $1 billion last year, and the market is projected to grow 4.2% on an annualized basis through 2022, according to Project NOSH. According to IBIS World research, much of that growth will be from natural, artisanal or premium jerky and labeled as organic, grass-fed and produced without antibiotics.
SeaChips emphasizes its products are healthier and more sustainable than some other snack items. The company has made its dedication to sustainability clear and will donate 10% of its profits to an ocean-related charity chosen by its customers at the end of the year, which could entice mission-driven consumers to try the product.