Progressive Grocer

Grocerant February 2017

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29 SOLUTIONS FEBRUARY 2017 F or consumers seeking the next big healthy thing, seaweed has all the right buzzwords: mineral rich, prebiotic, anti-inflammatory, energizing, low carb, and loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids. Throw in the words "may taste like bacon," and you've got every- body's attention. Seaweed has long been used as an ingredient in everyday products ranging from salad dressing to ice creams, unbeknownst to most consumers. But adding it to grocerant products involves more than just tossing some strands into current soup or salad offerings. "We're not at the point where we can throw raw seaweed on a salad bar and expect people to like it and eat it," says Chuck Toombs, a professor at Oregon State University's College of Business who helped market "bacon" dulse (seaweed that tastes like bacon) grown by aquaculture researcher Chris Langdon; the product grabbed headlines last summer. "The [seaweed taste] doesn't work with the American palate at this time, but there's little doubt seaweed is going to move out of the snack aisle." Los Angeles-based Tess Masters, author of "The Blender Girl" cookbook and a seaweed fanatic, recommends a number of tactics for introducing seaweed into prepared foods in customer-friendly ways. Kelp cubes, for example, can serve as add-ons to store-made smoothies. Dried seaweed and seaweed powders or granules are great ingredients incor- porated into house-made stir-fries, grain bowls and pizzas or baked into breads. Seaweed seasonings—shakers of dried seaweed and spice blends—are no-brainers for the condiment section of the soup and salad bar. "Kelp noodles are a good entry point for people afraid of seaweed," adds Masters. "They're great to have in a salad bar, or add broth and make ramen out of them." Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market partnered with Oregon State University to develop a locally sourced seaweed product of their own. Launched in January 2015, Tamari with Dulse Seaweed Dressing & Marinade features seaweed grown at the school's Hatfield Marine Science Center. Turns out, it was a favorite among consumer testers. "Even the less adventurous consumers enjoyed eating dulse dress- ing on a mixed salad or as a dip for vegetables," says Jason Ball, research chef at the OSU Food Innovation Center. Jean Guyette, education and outreach staffer for Maine Coast Sea Vegetables in Hancock, Maine, says there's another reason grocerants should consider seaweeds: The investment to try them is minimal. "A little goes a long way," she says. "We sell it in bulk, but start small and see what works well with your menu. "Our favorite sandwich is a grilled cheese panini with smoked dulse and avocado," she adds. "You're adding nutrition and a distinctive taste. People crave it." G — Clare Leschin-Hoar Seaweed varieties such as wakame are poised to make inroads in the U.S. market. Kelp cubes can serve as add-ons to store-made smoothies. Oceans of healthy appeal SEAWEED

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