Seaweed protein market is growing again

Algae represent a largely untapped resource that can be used to produce food, feed, and pharmaceuticals, among other products. Despite the many benefits of seaweed, adoption in Europe of seaweed production and consumption is slow.

At the EIT Future of Food conference in June 2022, Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries and one of the seven members of the Group of Commissioners on the European Green Deal, highlighted the interest of the EU to elevate this sector within the Member States, by creating an initiative to improve cooperation between European algae producers, producers, sellers and developers.

Market interest peaked in 2017, when the health benefits of spirulina, the green algae powder to add to drinks and shakes, was discovered and became a trend. In recent years, this interest has waned, moving towards alternative protein products made from legumes or nuts such as soy, almonds and chickpeas. However, seaweed and seaweed are slowly appearing on restaurant menus or as an ingredient in grain products like pasta, in order to increase their protein value.

According to last report published by Allied Market Research, the algae protein market is expected to reach $1.51 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 11.6% from 2022 to 2030. The website Protein directoryan aggregator of alternative protein companies and startups, lists over 100 companies worldwide that are currently developing seaweed and seaweed products.

In Europe, companies involved in the algae value chain, covering macroalgae, microalgae and the cyanobacterium spirulina employees at least 8,600 employees. A map of macroalgae production on the European continent shows a clear predominance of seaweed farms in the UK, Norway and France, while some producers are even found in Austria, one of the few European countries without access to Wed. Just 10 years ago, a Dutch entrepreneur started his business on a cargo bike, cleverly marketing his products as a “grass-fed” burger, due to the country’s well-known open policy when it comes to weed consumption. The company Dutch herb burgerThe product was a plant-based burger fortified with seaweed and ten years later its market is expanding to kid-friendly vegan fish sticks.

Seaweed remains a highly scalable solution to the climate crisis as it provides ecosystem services such as absorption of excess nutrients, reduced environmental footprint in aquaculture products. Algae farms can release carbon which can be buried in sediments or exported to the deep sea, thus acting as a carbon sink. Moreover, as agricultural land remains limited, the cultivation of marine crops in the oceans and the aquaculture of algae are becoming the fastest growing component of global food production.

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