Brand owner New Frontier Foods - which is best-known for its snacks, but has recently launched organic seaweed broths and sauces – could see from retailer basket analysis that consumers who bought its broths typically purchased noodles on the same shopping trip, and decided to put the two together for maximum convenience, CEO Robert Mock told FoodNavigator-USA.
“The broths have been doing really well in accounts from Whole Foods and Sprouts to Walmart, and we saw that there was an opportunity to launch packs of organic rice noodles and organic ramen noodles to accompany them… a couple of our retail customers are going to stock them alongside the broths in the broth aisle instead of the Asian or ethnic aisle. But we also decided to develop something even convenient that’s ready in three minutes [the new noodle bowls]. Two minutes in the microwave and then you let it sit for a minute.”
Every retailer we’ve pitched the noodle bowls to has said yes
The noodle bowls – set to launch nationwide later this year – will launch with three SKUs: A ramen noodle bowl with ramen broth, ramen noodles, red chilis and orange peel; a miso noodle bowl with miso broth, rice noodles, dried tofu and kelp; and a pho noodle bowl with pho broth, rice noodles, jalapeno peppers and lime.
“There’s no other product with a gourmet broth as part of the mix. Typically you add boiling water to dried noodles so this is a different experience. Some really brands that have come out recently are refrigerated, but ours have a one-year shelf life," said Mock.
“Everyone we’ve shown them to has accepted it,” added Mock, a former financier with a passion for seaweed, who co-founded Bay Area-based New Frontier Foods in 2011 with three friends on a mission to turn seaweed into the next kale.
Seaweed, in its various forms, is “one of the planet’s most nutritious and sustainable crops,” says Ocean’s Halo, as it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals – including those that are typically only found in animal-based foods such as vitamin D and B12, but requires no land, fertilizers, pesticides, or fresh water to grow (typically, cultivators set out large nets impregnated with spores of seaweed and lay them out on the surface of the water. Seaweed is then ready to harvest in as little as 15 days).
Bringing seaweed to the mainstream
“Our goal at Ocean’s Halo is to bring seaweed to mainstream Americans and make it more of a staple because it is so good for you, full of vitamins and minerals and little bit of protein, but we also want to make it accessible,” said Mock, who believes the broths and noodle bowls tap into the trend for more ethnic and authentic recipes and the desire for protein in a broth (as evidenced by the bone broth craze).
“We see seaweed as a huge growth ingredient outside of just snacks.”
Ocean’s Halo shelf-stable broths – packaged in TetraPak bricks with an MSRP of $3.99, putting them on a par with organic chicken or beef-based broths – have a seaweed (kelp) base “but don’t taste of seaweed,” a small amount of protein (1-3g per serving) and high levels of iodine and vitamin D [kelp is highly unusual as it’s a vegan source of vitamin D, along with mushrooms], says CEO Robert Mock.
Unlike the company’s snacks, the broths don’t shout about seaweed on the front of the pack, and instead promote the Ocean’s Halo brand and the flavors: Miso broth, Ramen broth, Thai Coconut broth, Pho broth and Veggie broth, while the benefits of seaweed are highlighted on the side and back of the pack, along with recipes.
Ocean’s Halo snacks are made from an USDA certified organic seaweed commonly known as gim in Korea and nori in Japan that is sustainably harvested from ocean farms off the southwest coast of Korea, sun-dried and interwoven using traditional screen dehydration methods, and then shipped over to the US where it is roasted, seasoned, and packaged into snacks in an USDA Organic and SQF certified facility in southern California, which opened in 2016.
The latest launch is a [vegan] bacon flavored seaweed snack developed exclusively for Walmart, said CEO Robert Mock, who says the European market - the UK in particular - presents a strong growth opportunity for seaweed snacks.
"The UK market for seaweed snacks is much less mature and offers much higher growth potential [than the US market]."