European seaweed-flavoured product launches jump 147% in four years

[Global] Seaweed-flavoured food and drink products are set to be the next big superfood trend in Europe, according to new research from industry analysts Mintel.

The study reveals that food and drink brand launches with seaweed flavours, including kombu, nori/laver, and wakame seaweed flavours, have increased by 147 per cent in Europe between the years 2011 and 2015.

This growth means Europe is now the second most innovative region globally when it comes to seaweed-flavoured food and drink launches.

While the majority of seaweed-flavoured food and drink brands are currently launched in the Asia Pacific region – accounting for 88 per cent of global product launches between 2011 and 2015 – Europe launched 7 per cent of seaweed-flavoured foods and drinks globally in this time, outpacing both North America’s 4 per cent and Latin America at 1 per cent.

Speaking on the release of the new study on seaweed-flavoured products, Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst at Mintel, said: “Seaweed has been a famous delicacy in many Asian countries for centuries, celebrated for its flavour and nourishing powers.” While still somewhat niche in Europe, Mintel believes that seaweed could become the next superfood.

“Due to its abundance in natural vitamins, minerals, and plant-based protein, seaweed speaks to the growing quest for naturally functional foods and alternative protein sources in the West.”

The health benefits of seaweed appeals to European consumers with Mintel’s research indicating that 58 per cent of German consumers have either tried or would like to try algae as a protein source, compared to 44 per cent reported in the UK, and 36 per cent of UK consumers who use herbs, spices or seasonings agreed that ground, dried seaweed would be a good alternative to salt for flavoring meals or dishes.

“As consumer demand for low-salt products grows, food and drink offerings that reduce the intake of dietary sodium are increasingly popular. Seaweed is not only a natural way to substitute salt, but also exhibits antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, which may lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, or aid in digestion and weight management.” she said.

Snacks with seaweed flavours present a big opportunity for manufacturers in the West, especially in the snack category. Around one-third of consumers in Italy (30 per cent), 36 per cent in Poland and 37 per cent in Spain would like to see a wider variety of healthier snacks.

“The inherent health benefits in seaweed allow it to fit naturally into the healthy snack category. But even though consumers’ interest in health-enhancing food continues to increase, seaweed snacks will need to deliver on flavor in order to be successful with Western consumers,” Mattucci said.

Consumer demand is mirrored in recent launch activity, as 37 per cent of seaweed-flavoured food and drink launches in Europe between 2011 and 2015 took place in the snack category, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD).


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