Kelp has been popular for hundreds of years in Asia, and is growing in importance in the West, including the US and the UK. While it has been used in soups and broths for some time, WGSN is tracking its appearance as the main ingredient across several product categories.
“Kelp is a superfood in lots of ways,” says Jennifer Creevy, Head of WGSN Food & Drink. “It is incredibly nutritious and it grows really quickly. It doesn’t require fresh water or fertiliser to grow, and exports a large portion of its biomass out into the deep sea, allowing it to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the environment.”
For consumers, the driver goes beyond sustainability, as kelp can help our battle with climate change and regenerate the areas where it grows. According to proprietary data from WGSN’s Food & Drink Influencer Map, kelp is the leading ingredient in discussions about regenerative agriculture, showing its importance to the climate conversation.
The umami kick
Kelp is traditionally one of the leading ingredients in miso soup, so consumers have been aware of its umami-rich flavouring for some time. It is also popular in cubes and seasonings to add to all kinds of dishes and as snack alternatives including popcorn. More recently, it has appeared in products such as burgers, as called out in our top trends for 2022.
A climate hero
Kelp is popular predominantly among consumers most concerned about the climate crisis. While these consumers span different generations, the majority will sit among the younger cohorts who are actively looking at ways not only to reduce their impact on the planet, but also to regenerate the planet. And kelp offers this option.
Plus, as we’ve been tracking at WGSN, the younger generations are hungry for new tastes and experiences, and kelp is being used in innovative ways to draw out its flavour.
Innovations in kelp
Kelp is already being used in restaurants as well as among the innovator chefs and makers. For example, chef Matthew Kenney’s restaurant in Selfridges (London) offers a dish of kelp noodles.
Innovator brands are also using kelp in different ways, including kelp ‘crab’ cakes, kelp as an ingredient in a zero-alcohol drink and even kelp muffins. We will see more innovations in packaged goods over the next year.