IFF’s Nourish division has rolled out a “nutrient-dense hydrocolloid” from red seaweed to stabilize plant-based milks. The ingredient enables brands to formulate vegan dairy with shorter ingredient lists, a long sought-after quest in plant-based development.
Launched in the US, SeaFlour is positioned as a non-allergenic “seaweed flour” or “natural seaweed” with high-suspension abilities. It also is traceable from its source off the coast of Indonesia and requires only minimal processing after harvest and drying.
“SeaFlour has a unique synergy with plant proteins, keeping plant-based beverages stable while providing smooth, creamy texture and mouthfeel throughout their shelf lives,” says Michael Cammarata, senior beverage technologist at IFF’s Nourish division.
“This eliminates the need for additional stabilizers. With this single ingredient, manufacturers have the potential to reduce fat and sugar levels in their products without compromising texture or mouthfeel.”
Marine ingredients trending
Seaweed has been gaining traction in F&B launches over the last few years for its clean label and sustainable appeal.
Innova Market Insights observes that F&B launches tracked with seaweed ingredients have witnessed growth of 10.63% CAGR (Global 2017-2021). Within the same time frame, dairy alternative drinks containing the ingredient grew at 14.91%, albeit from a small base.
Hydrocolloids is not the only space growing with seaweed ingredients. The marine ingredient has also gained traction in the personal care arena for its bioactives, including polyphenols, polysaccharides, proteins, peptides, amino acids, lipids, vitamins and minerals.
It has also proven popular in the snacking space for its positive impact on the environment, health and coastal communities.
Consumers’ quest for natural additives
Innovations in clean label seaweed hydrocolloids come as consumers pressure industry to limit the use of carrageenan, a widely used hydrocolloid sourced from red seaweed.
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Carrageenan is the hydrocolloid of choice for the stabilization of neutral pH, milk protein-based beverages, according to Nesha Zalesny, hydrocolloids technical consultant at IMR International.
“One of the biggest advantages of carrageenan is that it interacts with casein protein to form a three-dimensional network that suspends protein or cocoa particles. Because of this, use levels can be very low, in the 0.018%–0.025% range.”
In February 2021, Cargill unveiled its WavePure ADG line from red seaweed powder offering gelling and thickening properties in dairy products.
Cleaning up the label in plant-based products
Plant-based beverages have traditionally required more ingredients than milk-based beverages when it comes to stabilization since they lack the casein needed for synergy with carrageenan.
Formulators turn to blends of gellan gum with acacia gum, for example, for plant-based drinks. Mouthfeel is then added with a viscosifying hydrocolloid, such as locust bean gum, tara gum, xanthan gum or carboxymethyl cellulose, details Zalesny.
These hydrocolloid blends can create longer ingredient lists, creating opportunities for single-function ingredients that can simplify the formula.
“Nearly 40% of consumers surveyed look for plant-based milks with all-natural ingredients,” says Dr. Greg Paul, North America category lead, dairy and nutritional beverages of IFF’s Nourish division.
“Using natural ingredients like SeaFlour allows food manufacturers to drive brand differentiation and sales in the plant-based beverage category.”
Social and environmental sustainability story
In addition to its clean label boost, SeaFlour is traceable “from sea to shelf.”
The seaweed is cultivated without the use of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.
After harvesting, the seaweed is simply washed, dried and milled with minimal processing. This technique preserves the natural fiber, protein, and mineral content, according to the company.
“Consumers expect plant-based beverages to contribute to a healthy diet,” says Gisele Barros, global product marketing leader of hydrocolloids, IFF’s Nourish division. “Increasingly, these same consumers expect their beverage choices to contribute to a healthy planet too.”
In addition to boasting a low carbon footprint, SeaFlour’s raw material sourcing supports the local farming community and is in the process of being incorporated into IFF’s Responsible Seaweed Program.
This is a holistic approach to social, environmental and economic improvements in seaweed processing. This initiative also aligns with IFF’s recently launched 2030 “Do More Good Plan,” an environmental, social and governance (ESG) roadmap.
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