Seaweed forager and chef Nick Blake at Point Arkwright. Photo Lachie Millard
Seaweed forager and chef Nick Blake at Point Arkwright. Photo Lachie Millard

Seaweed tipped to be biggest health trend of 2020

SEAWEED and "functional" snacking are tipped to be some of the biggest health trends for 2020 as researchers claim more Australians are after the unusual delicacy and face difficulties eating at traditional meal times.

Queensland researchers say consumers are now looking for "functional" - easy and healthy snacks - with foods like seaweed crackers a great way to meet the need of "on the go" eating and healthiness.

University of the Sunshine Coast associate professor Dawn Birch said despite seaweed already being on trend, it could be a big focus on the Christmas table and into next year.

"In the past, it was very much a common thing on tables in Asian countries but not so much in western countries," she said.

"With people like Jamie Oliver saying it's the most nutritious vegetable in the world, people are now looking to seaweed as a potential alternative vegetable and also apart from the fact it's really healthy, it's also really good for the environment.

"We're looking for people to move beyond sushi so we'd like to see more people eating seaweed in larger proportions than what you're getting in sushi - perhaps a nice fresh seaweed salad.

"When you think of the lovely fresh colour of seaweed, there's no better colour for Christmas, really."

Ms Birch said now more than ever, people were looking for healthy snacks that could be eaten at any time.

"It's that on-the-go eating and also people not having time to sit down and eat in the traditional way - there are a lot of people eating at their desk and while they're commuting so getting healthy, functional type snacks but also snacks that are good for the environment," Ms Birch said.

USC associate professor Nicholas Paul said many start-up businesses were sourcing seaweed either sustainably around Australia or overseas and repackaging snacks to meet demand.

"The Australian consumer is looking for those healthy snacks. We're not talking about replacing huge portions of diet with seaweed, but if there's something we can snack on in between meals, that's great," he said.

Nick Blake, who forages seaweed for restaurants across southeast Queensland, said seaweed had numerous possibilities and represented a resilient food-based system to tap into.

"I think nowadays people are trying to connect with the landscape and try to understand the flavours and how the flavours are true to their region and I think a lot more diners have become more conscious of eating local and sustainable.

Bond University nutrition professor Liz Isenring said popular vegan and plant-based diets would also continue to hold strong in 2020.