Sustainable, super nutritious and multi-functional – is seaweed the Blue Pacific’s next super-product?

The clear water of the Blue Pacific produces some of the most stunning seafood on the planet. It is no surprise that fish is a staple ingredient in the Pacific diet. Fish is marinated with lemon or lime juice; cooked with coconut and chilli; or served umu-style, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked amidst hot volcanic stones.

In Pacific culture, sharing these delicious dishes goes beyond diet and extends to experience, beliefs, culture and family connections. Traditional foods and cuisine are passed down through generations, and people, land and ocean are connected. 

The global supply of fish is diminishing rapidly across our oceans. Yet the world’s demand for fish is on the rise again after a slight decline in 2019. The Blue Pacific could play an important role in balancing the demand and supply of the sea.

European Market

Credit: Vegconomist

Beyond the obvious interest in seafood the growing demand for plant-based meals means there is a growing interest in seaweed.

Plant-based food refers to various food products derived from natural, plant-sourced ingredients. Planted – based food is manufactured from non animal-sourced ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, whole grains and legumes.

The Blue Pacific has products well suited to be ingredients for plant-based diets such as coconut and cassava. Another with incredible potential is seaweed. Like traditional fishing it takes advantage of the Pacific’s largest resource, without depleting its stock.

In many respects seaweed is the perfect product. The production of seaweed creates economic opportunity, combats climate change through ocean regeneration and fuels healthy lifestyles.

Seaweed also contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk and more protein than soybeans! What many may not realise is that the Omega 3 sought from fish actually comes from the plants the fish eat, so eating the plant directly provides the same nutrients.

South Pacific Mozuku in Tonga has been cultivating this opportunity in the Blue Pacific for the last seven years. Currently, they mainly export to Japan. Here a love of high-quality seaweed is a staple in their renowned healthy diets.

Further Health Benefits

Umibudo – sea grapes

Scientific research suggests that fucoidan, complex polysaccharide found in high quantities within mozuku seaweed, has a myriad health benefits. These are including but not limited to immune boosting, powerful antioxidant properties, reducing joint pain, soothing inflammation, and mobilising ageing and injured tissues.

In addition, because fucoidan has demonstrated the ability to accelerate skin healing and promote skin elasticity. This means mozuku could also be a favourable option for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and skincare companies in the future.

Another popular type of seaweed also prevalent across the Pacific is umibudo – a sea grape also known as nama in Fiji. This rich ingredient in skin care is also the hero of the Nama of Fiji skin care range. Harvested by dedicated women in the beautiful Yasawa region of Fiji, nama regenerates rapidly and it’s harvesting does not negatively impact the eco system.

Not Just For Health

Fijian start up Sea & Soil is also sustainably farming and harvesting other seaweed species including sargassum, Kappaphycus, Asparagopsis Taxiformis to produce certified organic agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, compost and pest control.

They are proving seaweed is not only beneficial for our bodies and skin. Their approach to transferring the concentrated mineral benefits of seaweed to land also fuels an industry allowing women in rural villages to cultivate both the seaweed and their own businesses. Seaweed packed with trace minerals and vitamins that are great for soil.

Sea & Soil also produce cattle feed made from seaweed!! Seaweed improves cow milk yield and quality whilst drastically reduce methane gas that the cattle emit! This ‘super ingredient’ also regenerates the ocean and sequesters a large amount of CO2 whilst releasing oxygen.

Sea & Soil also envisage exporting dried seaweed from which food manufacturers could extract carragennan. Carrageenan can be used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks naturally.

Carragennan is a wonderful alternative to xanthum gum. Xanthum gum is a common additive in food manufacturing – and is a common ingredient in wallpaper glue. Worth considering.

With Blue Pacific businesses innovatively using seaweed to create marketable products to Europe, the region can benefit economically. They can also demonstrate to the world – not only Pacific Island ingenuity – but also our respect for the environment and commitment to the preservation of our future.

For more information about exporting to Europe please contact Jodie Stewart at jodie.stewart@pacifictradeinvest.com.

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