Sea greens such as kelp, seaweed, and algae have been rising in popularity in the health foods category. This new trend has food manufacturers investing in sea greens for a variety of food applications such as snacks, meals and beverages.
Sea vegetable products have been popping up more frequently in the past year due to their nutritionally dense qualities. Innova Market Insights’ recent 2018 trends report highlighted “Ocean Garden” as a growing trend and a segment that has been experiencing a lot of innovation. According to the report, about 21 percent of food and beverage launches have included sea greens as ingredients. Global Food Forums also listed seaweed, algae and spirulina as investor-backed ingredients for 2018.
Currently, sea greens are seeing a lot of growth in the restaurant industry but products like seaweed salad, spirulina powder and kelp chips are increasingly becoming available in grocery stores. Microalgae specifically has been appearing on restaurant menus along with food and beverage formulations. In 2015, the market for microalgae products alone reached a value of around $1.38 billion. This market is expected to grow and reach a global value of $44.7 billion by 2023. The commercial seaweed market is also expected to grow to reach a market value of $22.13 billion by 2024.
“This is all very chef-driven, but this is what usually starts off new trends. There are some nice examples of sea specialties being used in a new and different way,” said Lu Ann Williams from Innova Market Insights to Food Ingredients First.
The sea greens segment is well positioned because a lot of consumers are starting to incorporate more plant-based foods in their diets. Due to their nutritionally dense qualities, seaweed, kelp and algae products have the potential to be marketed as superfoods.
According to Food Ingredients First, algae and seaweed stand out in this segment because of their rich umami flavors and nutrient dense qualities. Seaweed has been used as an alternative to salt in some formulations to appeal to consumers. Algae is commonly used in its powdered form as a source of protein for smoothies and other beverages. The ingredient has also been used to add natural blue coloring to foods. Spirulina is one of the most popular types of edible algae products with a projected market valuation of over $530 million by 2027. In addition, a recent study found that microalgae-fed cows can produce omega-3 enriched milk, which opens up a new opportunity for algae to be a nutritious ingredient in cow feed.
“We’re seeing them being used across a lot of different categories, such as snack and beverages, as well as seasonings,” Williams continued. “This is something that would have been absolutely confined to the natural channel, but now these things are moving more and more mainstream.”