Seaweed: Scotland's underused superfood?

Seaweed farming is a multi-billion dollar industry, and with its myriad of uses from food to biofuel, this multi-purpose sea vegetable is a hidden Scottish gem with bags of market potential.

The potential of seaweed

According to the UK government, global seaweed production more than doubled between 2000 and 2014. This presents Scotland’s food and drink industry with domestic and global business opportunities.  

Scotland's larder is an abundant source of seaweed. With challenges across the food supply chain related to climate change and limited land and water resources, investment in sustainable seaweed farming and product development is open for exploration. 

A shift from Eastern to Western cuisine  

Around 95% of the current global seaweed production currently comes from Asia, mainly due to its use in Asian cuisine. But this is changing, as interest in the west grows, and people begin to realise its potential. 

Known as 'the superfood of the sea', seaweed is packed with nutrients and contains 56 essential vitamins and minerals. It’s become a firm favourite with chefs across the world. 

There are more than 10,000 species of seaweed, differing in flavours, shapes, sizes and uses, many of which have still to be fully analysed. Nori, dulse, arame, wakame, kelp and spirulina are the most common seaweed types being used in the kitchen, and their functional and sustainable benefits have huge potential to be included in the UK diet. 

Available across the Scottish coast, the benefits of seaweed are:  

  • There's no need for pesticides or fertilisers 
  • It doesn't compete with crops and animals for resources 
  • Adaptability across a range of food and drink categories and other industries, such as cosmetics and renewable fuel 
  • As an acknowledged superfood, highly-nutritious, packed with minerals, and rich in fibre, protein, and antioxidants  
  • It's a natural salt alternative 
  • Business growth opportunities  

Major supermarkets have started listing seaweed products in the UK and there is potential to increase on this shelf space. Given the advantage of the Scottish coastline and lochs, Scotland is an ideal environment for seaweed production.  

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), has two experimental seaweed farms in operation, testing cultivation and harvesting techniques, and exploring the policies needed to manage such an industry.  

Seaweed is an underused resource, giving farmers, food and drink manufacturers, as well as retailers, a potentially great opportunity to invest in the innovative and adaptable seaweed sector.  

Next step for your business  

Want to find out how seaweed can be an opportunity for your business? Or have other ideas about growing your company through business innovation?  

Our innovation team offers free support to the Scottish food and drink industry. Whether your business innovation is around product development, processes or employees, we can help you explore your ideas, and develop them with you through to market. 

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?

Make Innovation Happen 'connectors' will help you tap in to an array of available support and guide you all the way through your innovation journey.