Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was recently able to talk to Steve Broad and Annie Chun, co-founders, gimMe Snacks, on why more consumers are choosing seaweed as a snack, and seaweed's health benefits.
Liz Parker: How is seaweed eco-friendly?
Steve Broad: Seaweed is considered a zero-input food because there is no water or fertilizer needed to grow seaweed.
Think sea vegetable farming! Instead of growing veggies in the soil, we grow veggies in the ocean. Seaweed doesn’t require additional fresh water, fertilizer, pesticides, feed or soil to grow. The sun and the sea provide everything it needs to thrive. To put it in perspective, it takes:
- 1 gallon of water to grow one almond
- 15 gallons of water for one pound of lettuce
- Approximately 2500-5000 gallons of water for a pound of beef
- 0 gallons of water to grow seaweed
Seaweed has also been proven to reduce methane gas and has the potential to replace fossil fuels. Plus, marine algae produce 50-80% of the world’s oxygen and absorbs huge amount of carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.
LP: Why did gimMe’s husband & wife founders team decide to create a seaweed snack?
Annie Chun: We founded our first food business, "Annie Chun's," in 1992, and recognized seaweed as an opportunity to adapt a traditional Korean side dish to the U.S. market.
I was born and raised in central Seoul near the west coast of Korea, grew up eating foods from the ocean - including seaweed that my mother would roast and serve. The idea of reinterpreting a favorite food from my childhood became the catalyst to gimMe.
In Korea, people eat seaweed as a side dish that is served with rice, but the traditional seaweed is more oily, less crispy. We wanted to try using different oils and play with different flavors.
In 2012, we recognized an opportunity to make seaweed a mainstream snacking sensation. We added flavors to the seaweed, and those eventually became some of the first seaweed snack products featuring sesame oil and wasabi flavors. In addition, we wanted to think about seaweed in a more meaningful way and pioneered the first line of USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified seaweed snacks to preserve the integrity of the ocean’s natural ecosystem. Since then, other seaweed manufacturers have followed suit helping to further reduce the amount of chemicals in our oceans.
We knew we wanted to make seaweed organic and bring it to America in a way that it deserved to be represented and expressed in the market. Today, gimMe is the #1 seaweed snack brand in the US and continues to expand in pantries across homes nationwide!
LP: How can seaweed fight climate change?
SB: Seaweed could be a way to fight climate change and it must be responsibly and organically farmed. Organic seaweed farms, like gimMe’s sequester carbon and improve water quality - contributing to the health of our oceans and planet as a whole. We remain committed to responsible, organic seaweed farming and uphold strict quality standards to ensure our oceans are clean and consumers get the best tasting organic seaweed in the market. Plus, gimMe has a team of scientists and researchers in Korea ensuring their seaweed is sustainably grown and harvested, without the use of any chemical additives that may be used by conventional seaweed companies.
Here is some more elaboration on the previously mentioned ways seaweed is eco-friendly:
- Reduces methane gas: A study found that adding a small amount of a particular algae to animal feed reduced cow’s methane production by 99 percent. So, farmers are now including seaweed ingredients in animal feed to reduce this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
- Essential to the life of the planet: Marine algae produces 50-80 percent of the world’s oxygen and absorbs huge amount of carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.
- Potential to replace fossil fuels: Seaweed biofuel can yield more energy per acre than land crops like corn.
LP: What is the seaweed cultivation and harvesting process like?
AC: Our seaweed is grown in the pristine waters of South Korea in the Yellow Sea most famous for producing the world's finest seaweed. Unlike conventionally grown-seaweed, our seaweed is naturally-grown and tended to by a passionate group of local farmers who are dedicated to preserving the integrity of the ocean's natural ecosystem. Each lot of seaweed is inspected and taste-tested by myself and Steve to ensure only the best is used in the creation of our products. Unlike land-based crops (think kale & cauliflower), the sun and water provide everything our seaweed needs to grow and thrive! See some photos of our seaweed farm here.
LP: Anything new on the horizon for the brand?
AC: Our Sea Salt & Avocado Oil Roasted Seaweed Snack has been a great success, building upon our high quality, clean flavor, paired with the health centric organic avocado oil has been a strong seller.
Our new/upcoming Seaweed Thins flavors, Almond Sesame and Pistachio are showing great consumer response in pre-test and expected to launch exclusively on Amazon this late summer. GimMe’s Seaweed Thins pair organic seaweed sheets with almonds, sesame seeds and a delicious tamari-based sauce all pressed into bite size mini sandwiches. We’re very excited about this new product! Follow us on Instagram @gimmegrams to stay updated on all the latest gimMe news.