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First supermarket contract

Seaweed ‘superfood’ bags deal with Morrisons

mara-seaweedA food seasoning made from seaweed washed up on the Scottish coast is to be stocked in 450 Morrisons stores across the UK.

The deal is Edinburgh-based Mara Seaweed’s first expansion into one of the big UK supermarket chains and the biggest deal of its kind for a seaweed seasoning. 

It already sells its products to Marks & Spencer, Harvey Nichols and Harrods. The firm also supplies Sodexo, the catering giant that serves meals in army bases, hospitals, offices, prisons and schools, and whose clients include the National Trust for Scotland and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

It has also collaborated with the Scottish Salmon Company and Loch Fyne Oysters.

Mara’s co-founder and “SeaEO” Fiona Houston said she is bringing an ancient British superfood to the customer in a format that’s easy-to-use and understand – a shake-on seasoning.

“As well as enhancing the flavour of food, Mara Seaweed offers a way of reducing salt while adding a superboost of healthy essential minerals, fibre and protein,” she says

One of the company’s products  – Shony – was described as “inexplicably delicious” by Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, even baking and desserts.  It was also featured on Saturday Kitchen with James Martin and it is on the menu at Skye’s Michelin-starred Three Chimneys

The other product, Furikake, is a popular shake-on rice seasoning in Japan, and Mara’s Furikake is an East-West fusion from sustainably harvested seaweed from Scotland and Ireland.

Mara seaweed is sustainably hand harvested under licence from The Crown Estate then brought to its Edinburgh production facility where it is air dried at low heat to retain its flavour and nutrients, and milled into various flakes and powders, before being expertly blended into a range of products.

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Ms Houston and co-founder Xa Milne discovered the nutritional benefits of Britain’s native seaweed resource while writing their 2007 book, “Seaweed and Eat It – a family foraging and cooking adventure.”

The pair subsequently developed a passion for the taste and nutritional benefits of Scotland’s seaweed and saw an opportunity to build a food brand, bringing seaweed back into modern diets.

Mara reported revenue last year of £250,000 which is forecast to quadruple this year.  It closed another funding round earlier this year, which enabled the firm to build production capacity and employ more sales resource.

Mara raised £500,000 in “friends and family” funding in 2013, with Rabbie’s tour company founder and chief executive Robin Worsnop coming on board as chairman.

The company raised a further £300,000 from a group of eight private investors, which allowed it to bring in £220,000 through the CrowdCube website and the same sum from other individuals.

It is targeting sales within five years of between £5m and £7m. The company has eight full-time staff and a number of seasonal part-time contractors who help with the harvesting.

According to the World Health Organisation, two-thirds of British women are iodine deficient. Iodine is essential for the thyroid gland to maintain metabolism, heart function, thinking and problem solving.

Iodine is found in fish and milk, but seaweed is the best natural source of iodine.

Mara Seaweed is high in fibre, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins and mineral salts such as potassium and magnesium. It’s low in fat, vegan, gluten free and contains 85% less sodium than salt, making it a healthy alternative to table salt.

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