While what’s acceptable from a taste perspective has changed drastically in this country, with umami and hot pepper notes now commonplace, what consumers are willing to eat from a mouthfeel perspective has changed less.
Co-founder Robert Shim said that led to his ephiphany about seaweed. He liked the flavor and nutrition of seaweed but didn’t like the dried form of the ingredient which consists of paper-thin flakes that tended to dissolve in the mouth.
“Mike (co-founder Michael Shim) and I don’t come from the food industry. I had a career selling financial derivatives and I actually discovered seaweed when I moved from Dallas to California,” Mock told FoodNavigator-USA. “I was talking with him about the seaweed snacks our kids were bringing home.
“I liked the flavor but I just can’t stand the form. We did a lot of market analysis of seaweed and the available forms and we came up with a chip application. There is a seaweed-flavored potato chip on the market in Asia but this is different. The primary ingredient is seaweed. We did some consumer testing and we got very positive reactions,” Mock said.
“When you use seasweed as the primary ingredient you come up with a chip that is nutritionally superior to a kale chip and we were very exctied abou that,” he said.
Ocean’s Halo stands astride the hot healthy snacking trend with a ‘superfood’ positioning for it’s chips. The original line of chips mentioned only a few nutrients but with the reformulated version the company did more in-depth testing to verify the nutrient levels in the product. The product is high in vitamins B12 and A, and at 6 grams, each serving has as much protein as an egg.
“We are now highlighting a total of 12 ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ sources of nutrients. We always knew those were in there but it was neat to be able to verify it,” Mock said.
Going organic was always part of the company’s plan, Shim and Mock said. But it took time to work through the certification process with the company’s South Korean seaweed supplier.
“From the get-go Mike and I wanted to create a tastiest healthy and sustainable chip. I think we knew from the start that going organic was what we wanted to do on the health front. We launched with our original formulation because it was taking a while to get the USDA certifcation on the seaweed,” Mock said.
“Our new product is not only certified organic but we have reformulated the product completely. We think it is a much better tasting version than what we launched with a year ago,” Shim said.
The new product, which be featured in the trade show’s new products pavilion, is offered in flavors such as Sea Salt, Chili Lime, Hot & Spicy, and Korean and Texas versions of barbecue. The company is launching a social media campaign to engage consumers in coming up with an additional flavor. The chips are gluten free, with white rice flour being the other major ingredient after seaweed.
Shim said along with the chip’s nutritional and health attributes, the product has a strong sustainability story to tell, too. The seaweed (in the case of Ocean’s Halo it is the porphyra tenera species, also known as nori) is farmed on nets anchored in the ocean waters along the southwestern coast of South Korea. The seaweed grows rapidly without adding nutrients to the water, making for an ultra-low impact farming operation, he said.
“Seaweed is an amazing superfood. It is one of the oldest sustianably harvested crops in the world. Our brand stnds for environmental responsibility and sustainability,” he said.