Kelp-seasoned tortillas for fish wraps, not to mention crispy tortilla chips, haven’t hit the market yet, but with the growing abundance of kelp in Alaska, the race is on to market this nutritious seaweed as a versatile munchie for tasty snacks.
Kelp is high in trace minerals and iodine but very low calorie, says Chris Sannito, a seafood technology specialist with Alaska Sea Grant in Kodiak, Alaska, who has worked with the tortilla and chip company Taco Loco in Anchorage on snack possibilities.
In November of 2021, Sannito introduced kelp-seasoned tortillas and chips during an Alaska Symphony of Seafood event held during Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle. Both were well received, Sannito said.
Kelp-flavored tortillas, which look like spinach tortillas, have a unique ocean-type flavor, he said. “It is really good as a fish wrap. We also made chips, tried roasting and deep frying them.”
Sea Grant officials note that with interest in Alaska mariculture increasing, more food companies are already incorporating kelp and other varieties of seaweed into their products.
Taco Loco’s owners haven’t made a decision yet on whether to introduce the kelp products, said one of them, Annabelle Galina. First their firm would have to do some serious market research, she said.
Sannito, whose office is at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, focuses on food safety and environmental compliance, seafood processing and product development. He is working on several projects investigating new technologies for processing seaweed and testing new markets for the nutritious food.
His job entails working with entities ranging from small family-owned businesses to large seafood processors to find creative solutions to challenges in the seafood industry. Along with his research, Sannito teaches classes for seafood processors and enthusiasts, including how to safely smoke seafood, the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) management system, quality control, sanitation and other processing-related matters.
The marine science center itself is engaged in cutting-edge seafood research and development. The facility has a commercial kitchen, biochemistry labs and a pilot-scale food processing facility used to develop new seafood projects. It is under the jurisdiction of Alaska Sea Grant and is part of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.