Seaweed and kelp - the tricks of the future?

The project Nýbylgja Bragð, which was carried out by scientists at Matís, was recently completed, but the main goal of the project was to develop valuable healthy flavors from large algae. The flavors are produced with innovative biotechnological methods, to reduce the use of salt in food processing, and they also have various other benefits.

High blood pressure is the most common health problem associated with high salt intake and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that daily consumption of salt be significantly reduced in many parts of the world. This also applies to Icelanders who still consume too much salt.

As salt has a strong effect on taste, there is a risk that less salt consumption will reduce taste and that processing properties may change. Large algae are rich in metals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium which give a salty taste. In addition, they contain a lot of flavor enhancers that can change the taste properties of food and, for example, give them more flavor. In order to release these flavor enhancers such as proteins, amino acids and reducing sugars from the seaweed, different processing methods are sometimes required.  

In this project, biotechnological methods were used to process flavors, including the use of enzymes developed at Matís. Emphasis was placed on processing flavorings from seaweed (Ascophyllum nodosum) and gillnets (Saccharina latissima), but these species grow in large numbers near Iceland. The flavors were tested with e-tongue, e-nose and taste buds from the tongue, as well as sensory evaluation and chemical measurements. Selected flavors were used to test in saltier and tastier foods.

The attached picture shows experimental doses where the flavoring was used in mashed potatoes.

The results of the project showed that it is possible to process flavorings from seaweed with a taste-enhancing effect, but further tests and adaptation of the processing process are needed, including scaling up the production of the enzyme. 

Further information about the project is provided Rósa Jónsdóttir at Matís, but those interested are also advised to keep an eye on the project's project page here: New Wave Taste

The project also received coverage in Bændablaðið, which was published recently, and that coverage can be found here: Healthy flavors made from Icelandic seaweed.