How are seaweed perceived by consumers?

As part of its general interest missions, the Centre Culinaire contributes to the contribution and dissemination of knowledge on issues of importance to the region. As a partner in the Sensalg project since 2016, the Culinary Centre has carried out a new focus group with a group of Breton consumers.

  © Centre culinaire

The aim was to gather consumer perceptions of seaweed, to understand their motivations and possible obstacles, and to identify ways of encouraging the consumption of seaweed by the general public.

Here are the main findings:

Over the last 7 years, the evocations surrounding seaweed have evolved towards much more positive notions. Consumers spontaneously identify seaweed as an edible product with interesting nutritional virtues, and also recognise seaweed as a resource for a more sustainable diet.

However, the knowledge of edible seaweed among the consumers interviewed is patchy and sometimes erroneous, and many questions remain: How do you recognise edible vs. non-edible seaweed? Can you harvest them yourself for food use? Can they be eaten raw? Should they be cooked? What exactly is their nutritional value?

In terms of use, consumers are still very immature. Seaweed is almost never described in terms of its taste or its possible uses in cooking (with the exception of nori leaf, which is well identified).

Despite expressing a desire to use seaweed in cooking, they cite the fact that the use of seaweed cannot be taken for granted. The lack of resources and knowledge to do so is one of the main obstacles to the use of seaweed by consumers: Which seaweeds and for what uses? What does each type of seaweed taste like? Do they need to be pre-cooked/bleached? How much should I use? What can they be combined with?

These are all questions that need to be answered before you start cooking or trying a seaweed-based dish. But with a wide range of awareness-raising activities, the number of uses will increase and the raw product will become more familiar.

Awareness can be raised via a number of vectors and through repeated exposure to the subject.

  • Firstly, the restaurateur, seen as a trusted third party who knows his stuff and will be able to propose recipes that are accessible and mastered (even if there’s still some way to go on the seaweed appropriation front in the catering industry too!)
  • But there is also a need to disseminate simple, everyday recipes to as many people as possible via the many culinary media, which would go some way to defusing the image of a product that is complicated to handle.

The major challenges in the long term are therefore to develop accessibility, provide knowledge and encourage consumer empowerment, with the need for a two-pronged approach: PRODUCTS AND RECIPES to build a virtuous connection in the minds of consumers.

The full study can be found on the blog of Centre Culinaire Conseil

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