In this project, we studied components in macroalgae that can be used as ingredients in the food industry, and we examined whether processing technologies can reduce the levels of potentially hazardous substances contained therein.

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Project results

The project has made great strides forward in terms of knowledge around issues such as iodine content in kelp and the challenges this poses. This has been the main theme of several scientific articles and has featured as a sub-element in all eight articles that have been accepted for publication to date. 

Challenges around high levels of iodine and heavy metals are particularly prevalent in sugar kelp, which is a very popular variant among both kelp growers and industry as a whole. Postdoctoral researcher Marthe Blikra has performed a deep dive on this issue, examining what impact processing technologies have on the content of potentially hazardous substances found in kelp, such as iodine, cadmium and arsenic. This is very important since the food industry may become a major kelp customer. For instance, the fish industry alone would have used the entire national cultivated kelp output had 15% of processed fish products had 4.7% kelp added to them.

Macroalgae (seaweed and kelp) is among the largest renewable biomass worldwide. In the Nordic countries, kelp is under-exploited for value creation. 

Sustainability is a key concept for Nofima, which is why macroalgae is one of its strategic areas of focus. In recent years, the strategic focus has been on the cultivation, processing and extraction of sugar kelp in particular.

Despite the major potential for value creation within this section of the bioeconomy, numerous challenges remain for the Norwegian kelp industry. TastyKelp has brought to light the fact that the consumer market has a keen sense of anticipation towards kelp. This has not only resulted in publications – the project has also helped bring tens of new products to market. 

Macroalgae contain both functional and bioactive components that can be used as ingredients in the food industry. The specific cell wall structure is crucial in determining the optimal method of extraction. It is thus necessary to adapt the extraction method to each individual species. 

The bioactive components are very sensitive to heat and solvents. It is necessary to identify and develop new extraction processes that will provide a better yield and selectivity. Nofima has worked on areas included enzymatic extraction under the auspices of this project.

Sustainable products that are safe to use in food must be made profitable. 

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