The Year of Seaweed And Honeyberries

From porridge with berries and heather honey, to salmon or trout with seasonal vegetables, to venison or beef with red, white or blue potatoes… All washed down with some marvellous home-grown tea, craft beer, gin or whisky.

Here in Scotland we have a wonderful larder. We could spend every day enjoying the crème de la crème.

As an island nation surrounded by sea, what better ingredient to be the focus of research and innovation than seaweed? Around the world it has been used in everything from cosmetics to snacks and has even reached mainstream foods in the form of seaweed tagliatelle and seaweed bacon. Seaweed & Co. is leading a £100,000 research project, co-funded by Innovate UK, the University of Glasgow, and nutritional food company, Eat Balanced. The project will carry out further research on how seaweed can overcome iodine deficiency, particularly in diets which exclude natural sources of this vital nutrient. Research into seaweed’s effect on weight management and anti-inflammatory properties will continue.

In 2018, we will start to hear more about the honeyberry; fruit of the honeysuckle plant known for its high nutrient and vitamin profile. The first honeyberry orchard has been successfully planted in Scotland and a cooperative of farmers and academics have formed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with James Hutton Institute. The group are focussing on developing the highest quality honeyberries and honeyberry products. A Honeyberry Gin is already on the market – a collaboration between Arbuckles and Strathearn Distillery.

Indeed, the gin renaissance has seen some unique flavours emerge. Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, Interface and the Scottish Craft Distillers Association has produced a reference library of botanicals grown in, which has helped many distillers achieve exciting new flavour combinations.

This year, the success story of Scottish Rapeseed Oil will also be celebrated, with 10 years of production by seven businesses who got together with academics to find out more about its nutritional attributes and unique taste. It has gone from being the “new kid on the block” to a staple ingredient in many kitchens.

Changes are often driven by the customer and we’ve been busy supporting the industry to innovate several products meeting the needs of health and ethical conscious consumers: meat-free alternatives for vegans, chocolate that’s good for the brain and soft drinks containing less sugar. Last year saw the unloved cauliflower and courgettes gaining in popularity and small innovative start-ups challenging the big brands.

Technology is helping businesses reach consumers in so many ways, from social media to virtual reality, and communication about products and provenance is now an integral part of the consumer experience.

It’s the time for embracing innovative reformulation for health or sustainability reasons, not just for manufacturers, but restaurants, cafes, take-aways and in the home too. Interface’s forthcoming reformulation event is sure to bring new ideas to the table and offer inspiration from different academic disciplines and producers.

We don’t know what’s happening with our island’s future, but perhaps we can make it an exciting and healthy one.

Rachel Mirfattahi, Sector Engagement Executive – Food & Drink, Interface, and Make Innovation Happen connector.

INTERFACE – The knowledge connection for business

Twitter: @InterfaceOnline 



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