Post Categories: December 2016

Trending Tastes: From Seaweed to Superfood—Kelp is the New Kale

trendcoverNo longer relegated to side dish or “should eat” status, less common vegetables like kale, cauliflower, beets and Brussels sprouts have been taking center stage on high-end menus and making up a bigger portion of many Americans’ plates over the last several years. The trend has grown as many consumers, especially Millennials, embrace a more vegetable-centric diet. Now culinary trendsetters are pushing to bring yet another less-loved vegetable into the limelight—setting up kelp (and other seaweed) to become the new kale.

Like kale, kelp and other varieties of seaweed are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in saturated fat and sodium. Kelp in particular provides healthy doses of calcium, iodine, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Seaweed is also good for the environment—arguably even more so than land-grown vegetables like kale. Grown in the ocean, it requires no fresh water, no fertilizer and no pesticides. It also grows very quickly, making it highly sustainable. It can even help reduce carbon dioxide and acid in the ocean, high levels of which can be harmful to sea life.

A number of CPGs and retailers have already started to dip their toes into the proverbial kelp sea with offerings like dried seaweed snacks, sushi wrappers, and ready-made sushi rolls and seaweed salad. Several companies are now offering fresh and frozen seaweed products designed to be used much like kale in salads, smoothies and sautés. These companies tout the unique flavors of their different varieties of seaweed, such as salty-sweet wakame, earthy kombu and smoky, savory dulse—which some even say tastes like bacon!

Most of these preparations are still fairly new to the U.S. market. Still, in the last 5 years, seaweed snack introductions have grown by 30-40 percent annually, according to a report by research firm New Nutrition Business. And the increasingly veggie-focused market seems ready for more. Will items like kelp noodles and kombu ice cream (real products already being sold in Asian markets) become mainstream products found in every supermarket from Maine to Montana? We’ll be watching the shelves in 2017—and beyond.