Seaweed: ‘Adventurous' food's a $6.4 billion industry

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Interview by Kai Ryssdal

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 10:09

If someone mentions "edible seaweed," the first thing that often comes to mind is the sushi nori that holds a California roll together. And in fact, East Asia is one of the world's largest consumers of seaweed.

Over time, seaweed's global presence expanded to other parts of the world, and it has become a $6.39 billion farming industry worldwide – a move that hardly surprises Paul Dobbins, president of Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp farm in the U.S.

"We saw the level of consumption of seaweed globally and realized it was only a matter of time before it started to be reintroduced into our country," he says. "Seaweed was eaten by our indigenous population before the colonists came along. When my great-grandmother in Newfoundland was a little girl, they would eat seaweed in the winter as a way to get your green nutrition at a time when there weren't any green plants available."

Dobbins says he holds a significant share of the seaweed market in high schools and colleges, as demand for healthier dietary options continues to grow.

"It's an adventurous food. It's not something they were probably served when they were really young," he says.

As for Dobbins' favorite way to eat seaweed? Tossed in with scrambled eggs, shrimp, and cheese, not terribly unlike an omelet.