Seaweed harvest could yield new flavours and colours

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

One of Ireland’s natural resources - seaweed – could yield a range of new food ingredients, including colour, flavours and healthy compounds.

County Cork-based contract research company CyberColloids has been working with Ireland’s Marine Institute to investigate the potential of a range of products that include mildly processed Irish seaweeds as flavoursome ingredients.

Seaweed is already used extensively in Asia, where it already comprises up to 20 per cent of the diet.

“Our company recognised a significant commercial opportunity to develop high-value food products from Irish seaweeds that were not only nutritious, but tasty and appealing to western consumers,”​ explained Ross Campbell of CyberColloids, at a regular meeting of the Sea Change Marine Food Advisory Group. “To do this, we needed to engage in new research, particularly regarding our ability to assess and utilise the flavour components of edible Irish seaweeds.”

Talking to FoodNavigator, Campbell said that the company has been active with seaweeds for a while with experience of extracting carrageenans, alginates, and agar. Recently, funding from Ireland’s Marine Institute allowed it to assess and utilize the flavour and colour compounds in edible Irish seaweeds.

The approach looked at extracting the colour component, flavour compounds, and developing a digestive health ingredient.

The company have assessed market needs, food processing methods currently available and the availability of Irish seaweeds as a commercial resource. The company also developed an understanding of the science behind flavour development and enhancement in seaweeds, to identify the components in seaweed that are important in taste and flavour and to understand how various cooking and processing methods could influence that flavour.

“We wanted to develop processing techniques for seaweed that were more in line with those found in the kitchen than those found in large scale industrial processes,”​ explained CyberColloids scientist Sarah Hotchkiss. “To do this, we had to enlist the services of an international flavour house to develop a unique ‘flavour language’ for edible seaweeds and to train us in the use of this new flavour language.

“As a result, CyberColloids now has an experienced panel of sensory analysts that is available to assess seaweed flavours and, to the best of our knowledge, we are the only company in Ireland to do so,”​ she added.

The company now has a crude product that is currently being assessed by an Irish food company as a condiment. An international flavour house is interested, said Campbell, but interest is more for concentrated, rather than crude, product.

“This is interesting. It’s not finished, so I’d say watch this space,”​ he said.

Campbell also explained the company has worked with a Danish company to develop a clean-label gelling fruit fibre. Discussions are ongoing with “apple and citrus people”​, he said, with a view to licensing the technology.

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