Updated: Dec 20, 2022
New seafood alternatives such as Smoked Not Salmon show the rising demand for seaweed ingredients; the challenge is to find Australian supplies.
Incorporating seaweed in a seafood-alternative product seemed a logical step for Nathan Tsivlin and Livia Gerber, the producers of the newly launched vegan seafood alternative Smoked Not Salmon.
Uproot Food is their Sydney-based business, and Smoked Not Salmon is made principally from carrots, with a few other key ingredients such as flaxseed and sunflower oils, salt, apple cider and organic kelp. It is also fortified with omega-3 fatty acids to provide the familiar appearance, taste and health benefits of smoked salmon.
Nathan says adding seaweed seemed like a great way to enhance the flavour – adding a little ocean umami – and was attractive from a marketing point of view. But he quickly discovered that sourcing an affordable and consistently available supply of Australian seaweed would be more difficult than anticipated.
Ideally, he wanted a kelp powder, preferably organic, with a continuous supply of product. Searching the Australian market, he found several suppliers who had limited stocks or were out of stock, others who sold granules, but not the powdered form he needed. Still others sold kelp for industrial purposes only, or as stock feed, because of the difficulty meeting regulations related to products for human consumption.
His quest for an Australian kelp ingredient was ultimately unsuccessful, which then took him first to New Zealand and then to Canada. He says Australian food safety regulations proved a barrier to importing from New Zealand, and he is currently importing Canadian kelp from a company in the US for Smoked Not Salmon.
But he is still keen to find an Australian supplier.
“I know there is work underway in the background in terms of seaweed production to make it commercially accessible and viable in Australia,” Nathan says. “I guess it just takes time, and we’re at the point where there seems to be growing demand, but the supply is actually lacking.”
Healthy eating choices
Nathan and Livia's Uproot Food business taps into the growing plant-based food trend, which Nathan sees as a move towards healthier food choices, not necessarily towards vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. He says no one else is doing smoked salmon seafood alternatives in Australia, and they see this market as a real opportunity.
“However, some meat alternatives have so many different additives and flavour enhancers – mysterious ingredients that most people don’t recognise. Just because something is vegetarian or vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy," he says.
“That’s where our product fits in. We have a small number of minimally processed ingredients and they are all whole foods.”
Uproot Food launched its Smoked Not Salmon in September 2022 and the demand has been growing organically, largely through markets, plant-based retailers, cafes and word of mouth.
With Christmas and New Year celebrations coming up, Nathan’s hoping Smoked Not Salmon will offer an alternative to the ubiquitous smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres served at gatherings at this time of year.