Edible seaweeds – A rich source of flavour components for sodium replacement
Sodium replacement and natural flavour enhancement are both key drivers in the food industry today and in both cases, there is a global push towards the development of products with a “natural”, “free from” and “inherently healthy” image. New and interesting ingredients from natural sources are being sought across all sectors of the food industry. Seaweed derived flavour products have traditionally, and are still, widely used in Asian products but until recently, this has not generally been the case elsewhere in the world. However, this is changing. Edible seaweeds represent a rich source of flavour components with potential for use in sodium replacement strategies and are currently attracting much attention from the food industry.
Seaweed is a generic term that is commonly used to describe marine macroalgae. Macroalgae have been traditionally classified as marine plants but their taxonomy is complicated. There are three broad groups which are classified on the basis of their photosynthetic pigments; cell wall and storage materials and the structure of key organelles. These groups are: Rhodophyta or red algae, Chlorophyta or green algae and the Phaeophyceae or brown algae. There are approximately 9300 species worldwide, of which, over 500 are used commercially but not necessarily in food. In Europe, about 20 seaweeds are commonly eaten as sea vegetables or used as food ingredients (Table 1).
Reduction of sodium in foodstuffs poses a number of major problems for the food industry, the primary issue being a reduction in taste and acceptability to the consumer. It appears that consumers are willing to make healthier food choices but that they are not willing to compromise on taste. There are also a number of technological constraints as salt is also used as a preservative and processing aid. Maintaining the taste of low sodium food products is a challenge as flavo ...