‘The tide is turning’ for seaweed says The Times28 October 2014
Seaweed, grown and harvested in the British Isles, could be the next superfood to make its way on to our dinner plates.
Around eight million tonnes of seaweed is produced annually around the world, with an estimated value of nearly £3.5bn.
Yet despite the UK having wild stocks of 650 edible varieties growing on its coastline alone, Europe currently produces less than 5pc of the farmed kelp in the world. Over 90pc is still grown primarily in the Far East.
Historians believe that Britons have been eating seaweed since it was first introduced as a survival food by the Vikings. In the 1500s, the ingredient became especially popular in Wales, where laverweed was mixed with oats to make laverbread.
Only around 35 of the varieties that grow along our coastline have been used in cooking, so there is plenty of uptapped potential, and a string of UK start-ups are now aiming to bring this traditional ingredient back to kitchens.
On a similar mission to establish a place for seaweed in the mind of the consumer are Dawn Hourigan and Ruth Dronfield, founders of seaweed start-up, Atlantic Kitchen.
Hourigan grew up eating seaweed regularly in Cork, Ireland, and was surprised at the lack of seaweed eaten in London, so partnered up with events planner Dronfield to fill a gap in the market. They had immediate success supplying London-based chefs including Bruno Loubet, Sam Clark from Moro and Yotam Ottolenghi, but struggled to win over the consumer.
“We immediately faced a hurdle,” says Dronfield.
“Seaweed has not been eaten and cooked for centuries in the West so people don’t know what to do with it. The way we see it, we’re trying to launch a brand new product into the market. We needed to overcome that education hurdle before gaining any success in the retail sector.”
Dronfield decided it was “necessary to build a bridge in the customers mind, to using dried seaweed as an ingredient” and listed the company on the crowd-funding website, Crowdcube in order to fund the development of its first range of soups. Within two months they had raised £125,000 and the soups are set to launch soon.