Developing the Taste of Kelp

Senior scientist Dagbjørn Skipnes (left) and chef Stian Gjerstad Iversen have been key contributors to the development of a snack product containing 7.5% kelp. Photo: Jan Inge Haga @Nofima

Norwegians, Dagbjørn Skipnes and Stian Gjerstad Iversen from aquaculture and food research institute Nofima, together with the start-up Sjy Seaweed in Nordland, have been conducting research to create snacks made from and with kelp.

In Norway, seaweed and kelp grow along the entire coast but the locals eat very little of it. Sjy Seaweed on Indre Kvarøy, off the coast of Helgeland, is passionate about sustainability and wants to create food that is not reliant on fresh water, land usage, or chemicals. Snacks made from kelp are their first products to be brought to market. Nofima has been their research partner and together they have come up with a product that contains 7.5 percent kelp.

“We wanted to create a product that people would not only eat once a year, but all year round. In this way, we can create year-round jobs,” said Leonore Olsen, one of the start-up’s founders.

Help with research for product development

For the development of the new kelp product, Nofima used its extrusion expertise in Bergen. The technology is used to give the product a porous and brittle texture, not unlike the process of making cheese puffs.

Research on product composition and taste was done by Senior Scientist Dagbjørn Skipnes and chef Stian Gjerstad Iversen. Kelp can be used both as a flavoring and as a salt replacement. Winged kelp has a lower iodine content than sugar kelp and can therefore be used in slightly larger quantities but is just as effective as a salt substitute. Moreover, two types also provide a wider range of flavors. The researchers’ target became a combination between butare and sugar kelp.

In addition to kelp, the products also contain potato, corn and plant fats. “One of the products, which is seasoned using salt only, provides a fresh and salty taste of the sea, while the product seasoned using penny bun mushrooms dampens the kelp flavor somewhat and provides a different sensation in the mouth and more of an umami flavor,” says Chef Iversen.

Dr. Skipnes is a kelp specialist and leads a major research project called TastyKelp, a project funded by Nofima. “On the basis of my areas of research, I assist the food industry with everything from documentation of heat treatment to production facilities. This also includes the selection of methods and equipment for processing,” he says.

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