Exhibitors at Expo West showcased new seaweed innovations.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Seaweed may become “the next superfood,” said Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst at Mintel, Chicago. Food and drink product launches featuring seaweed flavors increased by 76% in North America between 2011 and 2015. Recent innovation in the seaweed snack category was on display at Natural Products Expo West, held March 10-13 in Anaheim.

Although North America launched only 4% of products featuring seaweed as a flavor or ingredient between 2011 and 2015 (Asia Pacific leads the way with 88% of launches), seaweed’s health halo presents an opportunity for manufacturers in the United States, Mintel said. Nearly half of U.S. consumers have tried or would like to try algae as a protein source, and 60% of U.S. snacking consumers desire more healthy snack options, according to Mintel.

Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst at Mintel

“Due to its abundance of natural vitamins, minerals and plant-based protein, seaweed speaks to the growing quest for naturally functional foods and alternative protein sources in the West,” Ms. Mattucci said. “The inherent health benefits in seaweed allow it to fit naturally into the healthy snack category. But even though consumers’ interest in health-enhancing food continues to increase, seaweed snacks will need to deliver on flavor in order to be successful with Western consumers.”

At Expo West, SeaSnax, Los Angeles, unveiled a new barbecue flavor in its lineup of roasted seaweed snacks. Made with sustainably harvested organic seaweed and organic extra virgin olive oil, other SeaSnax varieties include lime, chipotle, wasabi, chipotle and toasty onion.

Annie's Chun's introduced new Seaweed Crisps, which combine roasted sheets of nori with crispy brown rice chips in an oven-baked snack.

From Annie Chun’s, La Palma, Calif., comes new organic seaweed snacks in sesame and wasabi flavors, and new Seaweed Crisps, which combine roasted sheets of nori with crispy brown rice chips in an oven-baked snack. Flavors include original, gochujang and Korean barbecue.

Gimme Health Foods, San Rafael, Calif., has expanded its portfolio of seaweed-based snacks with a new sriracha variety of Gimme Seaweed Chips, made with organic seaweed, brown rice, lentils, millet and spices.

Seapoint Farms, Huntington Beach, Calif., introduced Seaweed Crisps, an oven-baked savory snack in almond sesame and pumpkin sesame varieties; Seaweed Pops, a sweet and savory oven-baked crunchy snack; and Seaweed Fava Chips, a sweet and savory kettle-cooked snack.

Seapoint Farms introduced Seaweed Crisps and Seaweed Pops.

Brad’s Raw Foods, Pipersville, Pa., debuted new Seaweed Kale Chi snacks, made with kale and seaweed, plus probiotics, in ginger spice and hot ginger spice flavors.

Ocean’s Halo, San Francisco, revealed a new snack line, Almond Seaweed Strips, which feature almonds sandwiched between two lightly sweetened seaweed strips. The products are debuting in the United States after a successful test run in more than 850 Starbucks shops in Korea, the company said.

Ocean’s Halo also announced plans to open the first seaweed manufacturing plant in the United States. Located in Southern California, the plant will produce the brand’s sheeted seaweed snacks, which include such flavors as Maui onion, sea salt, Texas barbecue and sriracha, as well as private label seaweed products.

Gimme Health Foods launched a new sriracha variety of Gimme Seaweed Chips, and Ocean’s Halo revealed a new snack line, Almond Seaweed Strips.

 “The opening of the manufacturing facility in Q2 has not only provided tremendous advantages within our supply chain, but will also allow us to provide much faster and more cost-effective seaweed supply for U.S. retailers in support of their branded and private label products,” said Robert Mock, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ocean’s Halo. “Ocean’s Halo can now be found in nearly 5,000 retail locations across the globe, and we look forward to continuing to innovate and provide healthy and delicious snack alternatives.”

Beyond its use as an ingredient, seaweed was a featured flavor in traditional snacks highlighted at Expo West. A new flavor of Rice Chips from Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale, Calif., is sesame seaweed. Mary’s Gone Crackers, Gridley, Calif., is introducing a new Super Seed line of gluten-free, organic crackers featuring a seaweed and black sesame variety. San Francisco-based 479° offers a toasted sesame and seaweed ready-to-eat popcorn.