The global commercial seaweed market was worth USD 9.89 billion in 2022. It is estimated to reach an expected value of USD 11.82 billion by 2031, witnessing a CAGR of 2% during the forecast period (2023-2031).
Seaweeds are widely used in various food products across the world. Traditionally, seaweed is used as food in China, Japan, and South Korea. Moreover, it is also becoming popular in western countries due to its health benefits, as seaweeds contain vitamins, minerals, and fibers, which increased their popularity among consumers. Moreover, there has been a rise in seaweed harvesting owing to the rising demand for seaweed-based products. The increasing demand for seaweeds in the manufacture of hydrocolloids, such as agar, alginate, and carrageenan, is anticipated to further boost the demand for seaweeds. Agar, alginate, and carrageenan are premium seaweed hydrocolloids used as gelation and thickening agents in food, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological applications.
Seaweeds are widely used in various food products across the world. Traditionally, seaweed is used as food in China, Japan, and South Korea. However, as consumers from these countries have migrated to other regions of the world, the demand for seaweed as a food source has followed them, as evidenced by the rising demand in some areas of the United States and South America, where the Asian population represents 5.4% of the total population and is still growing. Some French government and commercial organizations have successfully promoted seaweeds for restaurant and domestic use. In some developing countries with a tradition of consuming fresh seaweeds as vegetables and in salads, there exists an informal market among coastal residents.
Many studies have evaluated seaweed's gelling, thickening, and therapeutic properties when used individually. This also highlights the nutritional, textural, sensory, and health-related properties of food products enriched with seaweed and extracts. The effect of seaweed incorporation on meat, fish, bakery and other food products has grown tremendously in the food and beverage industry. As per the recent data cited by the United Nations Commodity Trade, there has been a constant increase in the export/import value of seaweed (2012-2020) and other forms of algae for human consumption in Europe, which is a clear sign of a rise in usage of seaweed ingredients in the food processing industry in Europe and global market.
Agriculture is a critical sector for the livelihood of individuals and the stability of the overall global economy. Meeting food needs and productivity requirements in the future is of tremendous importance owing to the increasing global population. These requirements can be met through innovations and technologies that have recently come up in support of the agriculture sector; one among them is using seaweed extract to boost agricultural production. Beneficial for both the agriculture and horticulture sector, seaweed extracts are gaining popularity and recognition as an aid to growing crops with enhanced nutritional value and increased crop yield. Seaweed extracts have plant growth-enhancing properties through metabolic benefits and help trigger disease response pathways while increasing stress tolerance. Complex liquid seaweed extracts have been shown to have novel mechanisms for boosting crop productivity.
Improved root structures, plant development such as flowering, leaf development, and fruit set, and an increased capacity to withstand plant disease and environmental stresses like cold or drought, are among the additional advantages. They also help improve soil structure, water-holding capacity, and soil microbiology. Seaweed's market is relatively nascent but provides a natural way of benefitting from the agricultural land. The growing concern regarding environmental health would help the market to grow convincingly in the future. The products are treated as alternatives to chemicals used in agricultural lands that affect natural habitats. There has been a rapid shift in the level of investments in research on product effectiveness that can help the industry to grow qualitatively. The current trend clears that seaweeds would have a greater significance during the forecast period.
Commercial seaweed production negatively impacts the environment and creates several other problems due to farming. There are two main effects on the environment from seaweed farming; one is physical, and the other is ecological. The physical effects include the physical structure of the water body, water movement, terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and aesthetic impacts on the natural environment. The primary and secondary productivity of the water body, water quality, and niche disturbance of native fishes defines ecological effects.
On the other hand, commercial seaweed culture is mainly responsible for the depletion of nutrients from water due to excessive nutrient absorption by seaweeds. Seaweed cultivation is impacting the growth of other natural flora due to the lack of nutrients in the water. If such nutrients are added artificially into the water body, there is a greater chance of water pollution. This misbalance is not suitable for marine plants and animals. Hence, it is believed that insensible seaweed farming may harm the environment and restrict the overall market growth of seaweeds.
The growing application of seaweed in beauty and personal care products is due to effective natural treatments for curly hair and sustainable skin moisturizers. Also, the skin benefits of these extracts and their alignment with new consumer demands for natural products in personal care products have increased their popularity lately in ingredient claims. Seaweed benefits include emollient and purifying properties due to a rich blend of nutrients, including Vitamins B12, iodine, and phenols. It is used in skincare for rejuvenating skincare blends which are beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin. Additionally, its use in hair care as seaweed powder enhances hair volume. Moreover, seaweed powder has applications in detoxifying baths and spa treatments, moisturizing creams, lotions, exfoliating soaps, scrubs, cleansers, and hair masks.
Seaweed powder is a frequently used ingredient in vegan blends and natural body care products since it is quickly absorbed and gives formulas moisturizing characteristics. It is a highly prized component in formulas that support healthy-looking skin. It is also frequently present in goods for baths and spas that help with detoxification and hair care items that support retaining body and bounce. Many natural beauty products contain seaweed to strengthen the blends' integrity and amplify their positive benefits. It is a binding agent used in emulsification to stabilize the formulation and improve its texture. Butter, serums, gels, shampoos, conditioners, creams, and lotions benefit the most from it. Such elements all contribute to market expansion.
The global commercial seaweed market is segmented by type, application, and region.
By type, the global commercial seaweed market is segmented into brown seaweed, green seaweed, and red seaweed. The brown seaweed segment accounted for the largest market share and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8.2% during the forecast period. Alginates or Algin from brown seaweed is used to make water-based products thicker or creamier. In the food industry, alginate has been used to coat fruits and vegetables, as a microbial and viral protection product, and as a gelling, thickening, stabilizing, or emulsifying agent. Alginate and its derivatives, like sodium alginate, are also used to prevent the reflux of stomach contents and heartburn as well as in hand creams. Fucoidans, sulfated polysaccharides rich in fucose found primarily in brown seaweed, have been used as functional ingredients for human health. Sulfated polysaccharides with the potential for use in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, functional foods, and cosmetics have been isolated from brown seaweeds over the years. Seaweed, especially kelp, a large brown seaweed, and its liquid seaweed extract is widely used as a bio-fertilizer with a positive effect on plant growth and yield. The increasing number of potential applications, coupled with the demand for natural ingredients and products, is driving the growth of brown seaweed demand and production across the globe.
By application, the global commercial seaweed market is segmented into food and beverage, dietary supplement, pharmaceuticals, and other applications. The food and beverage segment accounted for the largest market share and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7.7% during the forecast period. Seaweeds and their derivatives are incorporated as a finely ground powder to be used in various bakery and farinaceous foods, including bread, noodles, pasta, biscuit, cookies, cake, and extruded maize, enriches them from a nutritional point of view, in texture properties as well as improve the shelf life of the products. Seaweeds and their derivatives, especially agar and carrageenan, are vital ingredients in many foods, including yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, infant formula, coffee beverages, creamers, and nutritional drinks. Several alternative meat companies used seaweed to produce meat substitutes that are nutritional equal and taste as good as or better than animal meat. Some red seaweeds can make fake meat more resemblant to real meat by giving it a more realistic texture and enhancing the browning process. Seaweed is a standout imitation meat product because it offers a "meaty" depth of flavor and nutrients. Businesses like Trophic, NovaMeat and New Wave produce seaweed proteins and plant-based meat substitutes. AKUA also makes a kelp burger. In recent years, many players in the food & beverages space are increasingly exploring and utilizing various applications of seaweed food & beverage products to align with ongoing trends such as veganism and clean-label demand for natural and organic ingredients.
By Region, the global commercial seaweed market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, South America, the Middle East & Africa
Asia Pacific accounted for the largest market share and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 9.8% during the forecast period. China is one of the largest producers of edible seaweeds in the Asian region. The seaweed species with commercial importance in the country mainly include Laminaria, Undaria, Porphyra, Gelidium, Gracilaria, Eucheuma, and Macrocystis. The Chinese national and provincial governments encouraged seaweed industry development supported by policy, finance, and funds, onshore and offshore farming areas, freshwater resources, etc. The national government of China started industry restructuring under the pressure of severe environmental and ecology issues, for example, the effect of rising air and water pollution on offshore industries. Due to this factor, the national government had planned to restructure the layout of offshore seaweed farming and its industrial processing, which drives market growth.
North America is the second largest region. It is estimated to reach an expected value of USD 5778 million by 2031, witnessing a CAGR of 5.8%. Seaweed products are gaining popularity in the United States, as they are being introduced in grocery stores and club stores and featured on restaurant menus across the country. The number of fresh and dried seaweed products in the marketplace is growing rapidly. Additionally, a rising number of products are being grown and processed in the United States, though the market is dominated by large commercial seaweed suppliers based in Asia. Seaweeds are considered nutritious greens, rich in minerals, contain essential amino acids, and have high-quality protein. They are considered the new “superfood” in the country. Health-conscious consumers in the country recognize the health benefits of low-calorie foods, such as lowering blood pressure and reducing obesity. Various demographic groups in the United States, particularly millennials, are becoming more adventurous in their tastes. These groups appreciate that seaweeds add umami, a savory flavor, to foods. A growing group of entrepreneurs is looking to build businesses around farming seaweed across the country due to its nutritional value, high-protein content, and health benefits by creating new business models, farming methods, technologies, and designs that incorporate environmental sustainability and ocean biodiversity.
Europe is the third largest region. The commercial seaweed market in Germany registered the fastest growth during the forecast period and is expected to continue at the same phase, owing to the increased food and beverage applications, including meat and meat processing, dairy, confectionery, baked goods, and alcoholic beverages. Being naturally derived from algae and marine plants, seaweed-based hydrocolloids are often used in various plant-based food and beverage applications, from vegetarian sausage casings to vegan beverages. In the boom of clean-label, organic, vegan products in Germany, manufacturers prefer seaweed as a thickening and gelling agent, which helps attain the desired label in their final products. Carrageenan is one of the significant types of seaweed used by food and beverage manufacturers as a gelling agent for, thickening agent for soups and sauce, jellies and puddings, stabilizing agent for ice creme, whipped cream and beer foam, emulsifier for milk products, and cocoa-drinks and for clarification of beer. The incredibly sustainable nature of the extraction and processing of seaweed-based ingredients makes it an inevitable option for end-user product manufacturers to improve overall sustainability.
Key players in the global commercial seaweed market are
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