It’s not a coincidence that seaweed is on just about every food trend list for 2019.
James Griffin told Nation’s Restaurant News that “seaweed is growing 7 percent annually in the United States and it checks all the boxes: healthful, environmentally sound and full of umami.” TheNew York Timesput seaweed on its “most intriguing guesses at what and how Americans will be eating in the new year.”Whole Foods noted that seaweed snacks are now enjoyed by health-conscious adults and toddlers alike, claiming that their experts predict even more ocean influence in the grocery aisles in the year to come. “Sea greens are showing up in dishes like seaweed butter and kelp noodles..."
There are several trends converging at once that have elevated seaweed to become one of the trendiest foods of 2019.
1. Seaweed is packed with umami and depth of flavors that excite top chefs. It’s an umami bomb, Griffin says. “The secret behind all that is that it has a high level of glutamic acid, which is in the flavor enhancer MSG, and it’s found in a natural form in almost all sea vegetables”
2. It is perhaps the most nutrient dense food on the planetwith iodine that promotes a healthy functioning thyroid, soluble fiber, calcium, omega 3s, anti-oxidants, and a host of other minerals and vitamins. The demand for healthy foods have entered the mainstream and seaweed is riding this trend.
3. The plant-based protein movement is experiencing explosive growth due to increasing consumer awareness of health, environmental, and animal welfare issues related to their food consumption. Seaweed is a great source of complete proteinswith anywhere from 3-50% depending on the varietal.
4. Seaweed is an extremely low-impact food on the planet. It has been called one of the only zero input farmed foods – it requires no fresh water, no fertilizer, no feed, and no pesticides. It also absorbs about 7 times more CO2 than any land-based plant and studies have shown it reduces ocean acidification.
What is also propelling the trend is that domestically grown seaweed is increasingly becoming available, with Maine leading the way with its long coastline and clean, cold waters. Consumers are demanding more local and traceable products. This being said, approximately 95% of seaweed currently sold in the US is grown in Asia and often in crowded waters.
The seaweed trend is leading to both chefs and food manufacturers innovating with new dishes and products. It’s not just famous chefs like David Chang, Rene Redzepi of Noma, or Jamie Oliver that have fully embraced sea vegetables. Just walk down the aisles of mainstream grocery chains such as Krogers and Albertsons and you will see the shelves stocked with new seaweed-based products.
Perhaps most encouraging that this trend will continue is that we’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of exploration of this wonderful and virtuous vegetable.
Mitchell Lench, CEO