Seaweed beyond salt reduction

FEATURED SPEAKER Fi Europe 2017 CONFERENCE
Seaweed has been used extensively for salt replacement and flavour boosting applications linked to its umami characteristics. Ahead of his presentation at the Fi Conference we talked to Dr. Craig Rose on how this is working, and also to discuss how seaweed has even more to offer, with incredible nutritional benefits.

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Why do you think salt reduction has become such an important issue in recent years? Is there an incident in particular that triggered this increased demand?
‘There is general consensus that we eat too much salt.  Yet we love the taste, it has functionality in foods, and it is cheap. The general public are well aware now of the issues of excessive sodium intake from salt, which can lead to serious issues of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.  As such, there is demand from both governments and consumers that food manufacturers can find alternatives to salt in foods, without compromising on flavour, function and price. This is a real challenge.’

Where did you get your idea to develop seaweed as a replacement for salt?
‘Seaweeds have long been used as flavour enhancers, and their glutamate extracts. The well-known mono-sodium-glutamate was originally derived from seaweeds.  In Asian cuisine, seaweed is often used as a base to broths and other foods to give a depth of flavour; an umami flavour.’
‘With our unique and patent pending production, we produce seaweed ingredients ideal and easy to include in a vast range of foods to boost flavours, and thus reduce the need for salt. In addition to flavour, salt is also used as a preservative, and research studies have shown our core seaweed species can naturally extend shelf-life, even beyond those of foods containing just salt.’

Can seaweed replace salt completely? Or are their differences in functionalities or application?
‘In some applications, you can achieve 100% salt replacement.  However, this is not always desired or workable. All salt replacers are more expensive than salt, and so we advise customers to replace what they need to, or aspire to, and work from there. Salt also has some key functionality, and whilst our seaweed can provide for much of this functionality, a small amount of salt may still be required.’
‘No salt replacer on the market is, to my knowledge, totally analogous with salt, and seaweed is no exception.  We know it works very well in the right applications, and as a natural, healthy and highly nutritious addition to foods, it has multiple benefits beyond just reducing added salt.’

What are the added health benefits of seaweed?
‘Seaweed is very nutrient dense. Our core seaweed range offers far more than just flavour boosting capabilities, and once in foods enhances minerals and trace elements to levels that would allow for EU Approved Health Claims.  The figure below shows how much there is in just one teaspoon of our seaweed.’

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‘Furthermore, our research with Newcastle University Medical School is showing the potential of specific compounds in our seaweeds to help manage weight and blood sugar, which can address obesity and diabetes.’

What are the main applications for seaweed? Are there any particular products or categories where seaweed is used most?
‘Seaweed is a very versatile ingredient. Our customers range from those that want purely functional benefits, such as salt reduction, to those that want to use seaweed to meet increasing consumer understand of seaweed as a natural, healthy and sustainable food. Applications range from baked goods, sauces, soups, meats and fish, to supplements, green blends and smoothies.’ 
‘Seaweed offers essential nutrition, and is now available in a range of formats that can benefit nearly every application in the food, beverage and nutrition markets.’

What are your predictions for the industry in general for the next 3-5 years?
‘All the trends show the seaweed market going from strength-to-strength.  The key barriers of the past few years have been consumer understanding and acceptance, and also the ability to supply sustainably at scale.’
‘Without doubt, consumers better understand now what seaweed is, and more products are being launched to give consumers seaweed in a format they can enjoy and benefit from.’
‘From the supply side, we have focused on species that are scalable and sustainable, and invested in the production technologies and accreditation that is seeing our ingredients sold into the largest food manufacturers in the UK and beyond. Seaweed is the fastest growing plant on earth, and we expect the industry to reflect this rapid growth!’

Dr. Craig Rose will be talking about ‘Seaweed for salt replacement, and so much more’ at the Fi Europe 2017 Conference during the Reduction & Reformulation session on Thursday, 30th November 2017 10:50–14:00.