Seaweed is the latest vegetable to masquerade as pasta, catering to health conscious consumers seeking a low carb alternative to this pantry staple. The buzz around sea spaghetti has grown in Europe over the past year due to its uncanny physical and textural resemblance to spaghetti.

Prominent sea spaghetti brands include I Sea Pasta from Seamore Foods, Atlantic Kitchen, Wild Irish Seaweeds and Mara Seaweed. These brands all promote the health benefits of seaweed, as well as the sustainability and provenance of these products that are wild-harvested locally. Sea spaghetti is also minimally processed and is said to be simply hand-picked, rinsed, dried and packaged.

seaspaghetti1
seaspaghetti2

Seamore I Sea Pasta Wild Organic Seaweed Tagliatelle (UK)

Kulau Sea Veggies Organic Sea Spaghetti (Czech Republic)

Seaweed has health appeal

Sea spaghetti has potential among those following gluten-free, low carb, paleo and vegan diets. The popularity of these diets has had a negative impact on pasta consumption in many markets globally. Gluten-free products are now a sizeable segment of the category and accounted for 15% of all pasta launches in 2016, according to Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD). New pasta introductions are also putting emphasis on a natural and healthy image: organic, high fibre, GMO-free and vegan claims are on the rise, making wild-harvested seaweed a good fit.

Seaweed is also increasingly viewed as a potential source of bioactive compounds with immense pharmaceutical, biomedical and nutraceutical importance. It’s an excellent source of different minerals, vitamins – such as B12, C, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid – and is low in calories.

Pasta brands experiment with spirulina

The definition of pasta is evolving and brands are increasingly experimenting with making pasta from a wide range of new and healthier ingredients. The trend for spiralising and ‘ricing’ vegetables has seen grains completely replaced by healthier alternatives like cauliflower, where spaghetti becomes ‘courgetti’ and rice becomes cauliflower rice.

In 2016, 15%
of all pasta introductions featured vegetables

Vegetables and non-grain flours were the main wheat substitutes used by pasta brands looking to appeal to consumers seeking out healthier alternatives to traditional pasta over the past year. In 2016, 15% of all pasta introductions featured vegetables, while 3% featured non-grain flours, such as quinoa and legume flours, according to Mintel GNPD. Gluten-free grains such as brown rice and buckwheat have also seen steady growth.

What we think

The sea vegetable industry is generating a lot of interest as a new food supply and a source of new flavour inspiration. While the market for sea spaghetti is small and unlikely to challenge traditional pasta products, it nevertheless is a further example of a mounting number of faux-pasta products, responding to consumer demand for healthier, low carb options. Pasta brands can now look beyond squid ink and explore the world of seaweed and algae as a means of introducing new ocean flavours, nutritional benefits and colours to traditional pasta.

Jodie Minotto is a Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. She has more than 13 years of experience in sales, marketing and market research roles, predominantly in the food and beverage industry, working for both global CPG companies and SMEs. Her expertise lies in the dairy, confectionery, meal solutions, snack foods, beer and wine categories.

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