Scottish seaweed could play a big part in the future of disposable packaging

Scottish seaweed has enormous potential – both as a food source and as a packaging resource. According to the UK government, global seaweed production more than doubled between 2000 and 2014 - spiking investment interest from overseas. 

Innovation will play a big part in converting this interest, if Scotland is to successfully commercialise seaweed, across a number of potential business sectors.

Seaweed and disposable packaging

Seaweed is 100% biodegradable, decomposing within four to six weeks. It’s abundant too. It’s estimated that, if used as packaging, just 0.03 per cent of the world's brown seaweed, could replace all of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles we get through each year.

The seaweed market is worth around 6 billion USD. And with Asia accounting for 95% of this, the push to find new markets puts Scotland in prime position to capitalise on a plentiful natural resource.

Loliware the seaweed packaging start-up

American company, Loliware, was an early innovator of edible and compostable seaweed packaging. Its range of goods includes cups made from agar extracted from red seaweed, and edible water bottles made from brown seaweed.

Loliware has made commercial packaging for a number of goods, including perfume, and has also moved into the edible straws market. Its products are available online, and in selected food services across the country.

Evoware from Indonesia

This Indonesian company has come up with seaweed packaging that dissolves in hot water and can be used for a number of products, including seasoning, as well as sandwich wraps and drinking cups. It's also developed a food kit with edible packaging for travellers and hikers.

Evoware is currently expanding, and plans to automate and up-scale production to improve cost margins and supply the increase in demand.

Just Eat's seaweed ketchup sachets

Innovation is at work in the home delivery service industry too. Food businesses in this sector have a massive impact on the use of single-use plastics. More than 11 billion single-use plastic condiment sachets are sold globally - contributing on a grand scale, to the global plastic waste problem.

Just Eat, the online food ordering platform, has committed to reducing its single-use plastics with the support of its restaurant partners. Working with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the company is committed to reducing the takeaway industry’s reliance on plastic.

The company has started a trial of biodegradable ketchup and garlic sauce sachets made from seaweed. The sachets, developed in partnership with packaging development company, Skipping Rocks Lab, fully decompose within six weeks.

Skipping Rocks Lab is also the innovators behind edible waterball membrane packaging, Ooho.

Just Eat will trial its seaweed-based sauce sachets for six weeks, with restaurant partner, The Fat Pizza, in Southend. If successful, the company plans to introduce the sachets across its network of 29,000 UK partner restaurants.

Scottish growth opportunities

Tackling plastic packaging is key to tackling plastic pollution. Marine life is fundamental to Scotland, so working on solutions to protect it and help it thrive, are crucial.

Finding great innovative alternatives, such as edible packaging made from Scottish seaweed, could be one option. And we can provide the support companies need to innovate, around people, processes and product development.

Innovation support for Scottish food and drink companies

Make Innovation Happen is a single source of innovation support for businesses involved in the Scottish food and drink supply chain.

Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise work in partnership across academia, the public sector and the industry to deliver a comprehensive innovation support service.

Make Innovation Happen can help your business by providing:

  • Access to 'connectors', who can offer support, advice and mentoring, as well as direction to appropriate support
  • Ideas and insights on how to innovate through articles and events
  • Funding through the Collaborative Innovation Fund
  • Help to access other innovation services provided by Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Interface and others

Looking for innovation support?

Our Make Innovation Happen service can help you improve employee, product and process productivity.