The UN Population Division of the Department of Social and Economic Affairs estimated that by the year 2050, the global population will reach 9.6 billion. From this estimate, our society will be strained to maintain a vast food supply as the world continues to increase in population. With this, food industries are optimistic that food ingredients contribute to making our food supply more sustainable. These can also help in addressing the decreased supply of natural resources and ensure that nutritious foods are transported over long distances to areas where safe and nutritious foods may not be available. This would mean that there will be an increase in demand of food ingredients in the coming years.
What can be a good source of food ingredient? Seaweeds are increasingly recognized as a sustainable food source with the potential to play a major role in providing food security worldwide. They grow in abundance and safe for human consumption. Seaweeds are also cultivated and used as feed to produce food for human consumption.
Carrageenan is an extract from seaweed harvested by farmers in coastal communities around the world. More than 100,000 family farmers rely on seaweed farming to support their families, improve their homes, and provide better lives for their children. United Nations report in 2013 said that, “the socio-economic impact of carrageenan seaweed farming is overwhelmingly positive,” particularly for women. In some countries, seaweed harvesting provides a way out of poverty for women who may not have access to other job opportunities.
Carrageenan is also one of the most sustainable crops on the planet. Growing and harvesting the seaweed used to make carrageenan requires none of the fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals that are often used in land-based farming. Seaweed sequesters carbon and cleans ocean water of phosphorus and nitrogen. It is widely used in the food industry, mostly as a thickener and gelling agent. It is commonly found in ice cream, cottage cheese, non-dairy milks, jelly, pudding, and infant formula.
Seaweed is increasingly important as a healthy and sustainable protein source for people and animals that is why it is said to be a versatile crop. Seaweed production does not also require agricultural land or fresh water. Simply put, seaweed is a sustainable source of food ingredient.