Seaweed products for the future: Using current tools to develop a sustainable food industry
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionTrends in Food Science & Technology. 2021, 118 Part B 765-776. 10.1016/j.tifs.2021.11.002
Background Although commonly consumed in Asia, seaweeds are a largely underutilized food source in the Western world. However, interest is rising, and seaweeds have a major potential as both main and functional ingredients in European markets. The current barriers for seaweeds as food products relate to food safety, quality preservation and optimization, and food neophobia. Scope and approach This commentary provides an overview of current challenges to providing seaweed in the European market and proposed solutions to tackle these obstacles, taking inspiration from other food sectors. Processing and packaging concepts for future manufacturing of seaweeds as food are explored and insight into market research and strategies for overcoming the barrier of consumer skepticism are given. Key findings and conclusions Tackling safety issues related to human consumption of seaweeds is required for their widespread use in food applications. Sustainable, multi-target mitigation strategies towards microbiological and chemical (excessive iodine, heavy metals, allergens) hazards are driving the improvement of food safety of seaweeds and derived products. Rapid post-harvest deterioration of seaweeds can be avoided through stabilization techniques, for instance through temporary storage solutions before final processing, direct utilization into food items, and packaging. Innovative drying and alternative processing strategies may reduce energy consumption and processing time, while at the same time improving the safety as well as the nutritional and sensory qualities of the product. Despite the rising popularity of Asian cuisine and the Western-consumers’ perception of seaweeds as a “healthy superfood”, understanding consumer behavior in relation to new foods and facilitating information-based decisions could reduce potential consumer skepticism. In conclusion, innovation tools discussed in this work can be exploited for further development of a sustainable seaweed food industry.