Glamorous grannies and seaweed find unlikely success at SIAL

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Glamorous grannies and seaweed find unlikely success at SIAL
Is it possible to make algae and grandmothers seem glamorous? Brittany-based entrepreneur Christine Le Tennier says so as she launches a seaweed tapenade that taps into the trend for 'modern nostalgia'.

Showcasing at industry event SIAL in Paris this week, the tapenades come in three flavours - 'seaweed, red cabbage and ginger', 'seaweed, carrot, turmeric' and 'seaweed, pumpkin and chestnut' - and are made from organic, hand-harvested wild seaweed from the northern French coastline of Brittany.

The name, tartare de mémé en folie​, is a play on words which conveys the idea of grandmothers and craziness.

The company’s founder, Christine Le Tennier, said the idea behind the branding came to her easily.

“Who knows how to cook vegetables well? Your grandma. It was as simple as that. So [the branding] is like a security for people. So the idea was to mix sea vegetables and ‘earth vegetables’ because seaweed is quite new as a food in Europe at least at the minute.”

The names of each product in the range - #Odette, #Henriette and #Ginette - are actually the names of Le Tennier’s mother and her two aunts, and

Christine Le Tennier

inspiration for the range is deeply personal for her as her mother passed away last year.

The names were a way of acknowledging her influence, she said.

“When I started 30 years ago and I said I was selling seaweed, people thought I was nuts. So we had to really write a story, create recipes for the products and that’s why my mum helped me a lot because she was a chef.”

The hashtag, juxtaposed next to the names also appeals to the young generation, she said.

“The hashtag is everywhere, plus it’s fun to [link] that with the grandmothers. The product is déconnecté as we say in French - it’s totally funny and strange.”

Glamorising the past

The products impressed SIAL judges who nominated it for an innovation award thanks to its “offbeat packaging” ​and the fact that they also tap into the trend for ‘modern nostalgia’ - looking to a reassuring past with a glamorised view and vintage aesthetic.

The packaging ‘revisits’ and modernises, often with humour, references to the past while the products they contain have benefits anchored in the


present or even the future. Some very modern products use and tell the story of production techniques that were tried and tested in a distant past,” ​it said.

The range is an extension of the company’s world tapenade products which contain between 28% and 37% sea beans (Himanthalia elongate​), dulse (Palmaria palmate​) or sea lettuce. 

The products will retail at between €4.50 to €5 per pot in delicatessen stores.

Le Tennier founded the company which has become the European leader in sea vegetables in 1986, she said, offering whole seaweed under the brand name Algues de Bretagne; transformed food products such as the tapenade, mustard and chutneys as well as alginate pearls used in high-end restaurants for molecular gastronomy under the name Miss Algae.

Although it sells fresh, unprocessed seaweed in the ready-to-use, finished products like the tartare de mémé ​are a good way to introduce consumers to seaweed as many do not know how to use it as a cooking ingredient, said Le Tennier.

Important export markets for the company are European countries as well the US and Canada, while Asian markets such as Japan and Singapore are opening up, she said.

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