Packed with a rich supply of minerals, protein, fibre and vitamins, and low in calories and fat, seaweed is not only good for your health but recent research has suggested that a seaweed-rich diet can counter depression and potentially mitigate Alzheimer’s disease.
SAC Consulting has worked closely with a number of food manufacturers in Scotland to produce innovative new food products using seaweed. Dubbed by SAC consultant Alistair Trail as health by stealth, seaweed is being incorporated into crackers, drinks and as a salt alternative in its test kitchens for producers from Inverness to Fife.
“Seaweed’s health-giving properties have given it superfood status in recent years and it grows abundantly on our shores offering some interesting opportunities,” said Alistair, whose clients include Thule Ventus, Lighthouse Seaweed and Highland Crackers.
“We have been approached by various businesses to look at ways to incorporate it into different food types and how to best market it. The challenge is to make it enjoyable to eat, but it is very versatile. It is particularly high in potassium and magnesium, two healthy mineral salts that guarantee flavour with 92% less sodium then average table salt, but as well as flavour it can change the texture of foods to create interesting products.”
Alistair and our SRUC Development Chef Mark Barker have worked with Highland Crackers to develop a healthy cracker to meet the criteria of the paleo diet, using seaweed flakes as an alternative to table salt. Made with sunflower, flax and pumpkin seed, two flavours were created using smoked and unsmoked seaweed (Kombu Kelp) from Mara Seaweed who harvest a 40km stretch of seabed around the East Neuk of Fife.
The Inverness company has provenance at its core and incorporates the rich history of Beremeal from Orkney and the modern cold pressed rapeseed oil from Ross-Shire. Founder Donna Peacock said:
“We wanted to expand the range of Highland Crackers to incorporate Scottish seaweed, and the SAC Consulting team also helped test the product with unconventional flour and seeds, taste profiles, preparation and bake times.”
SAC Consulting also developed a seaweed drink with Lighthouse Seaweed with a blend of Scottish fruit, vegetables and seaweed to produce a sweet and healthy drink.
“Seaweed is very important environmentally and historically,” said Alistair. “Traditionally it has been harvested on the Scottish shoreline, by hand and used in the production of things like soap and glass and is also gathered by crofters for use as fertiliser. So far it has been harvested at a small scale, but kelp grows abundantly off the west coast of Scotland and around its islands and there is considerable potential for utilising this natural resource. Commercial firms are expressing an interest in collecting much larger quantities directly from the forests growing off our coastline which provides opportunity for the growth of Scotland’s seaweed industry.
“Hebridean Seaweed is investing nearly £7 Million in an extension to their factory to produce dried asco for human and animal food, and seaweed extract in liquid and powder form for the fertiliser market. As a core principle, seaweed sustainability is particularly credible for three main reasons: seaweed requires no land, seaweed requires no fertiliser and seaweed requires no freshwater.”
Current research suggests that seaweed is a rich source of phytochemicals, antioxidants and has anti micro bacterial properties that could help reduce the need for chemical preservative in food manufacturing and enhance both food safety and quality. The antioxidants found in seaweed could be used to prevent lipid oxidation which is the main reason for food spoiling.
SAC Consulting support the development of many new food products including sea buckthorn and ‘healthy’ chocolate. With researchers, chefs and business consultants, the team can fully support start-ups and small businesses from the initial product development stage to taking the final product to market.