Algae are high in protein, omega oils and a range of vitamins and minerals. They grow in salt water, double in size every day and absorb CO2. Despite all this, algae haven’t really made it yet as a dietary product. They have great potential, but do we really want them on our plates?
Algae have a strong nutritional profile and typically contain essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, including omega-3, as well as vitamins, such as A, D and E. Certain types of algae can contain up to 70% of their dry weight in protein, which is higher than soy. Furthermore, algae crops have the ability to fix CO2, meaning they absorb it from the atmosphere and convert it to organic matter, and they are 10 to 50 times more efficient at doing this compared to terrestrial plants. At the same time, algae do not require chemical fertilisers which reduces their environmental impact further, and in some cases algae could even have a positive impact on the environment. These qualities mean algae are the perfect candidates to be a future staple of a healthy diet and an integral component if we are to build a more sustainable food system.
To fulfil the huge potential that algae have, we need to explore how food system actors can turn consumer perceptions into consumer preference. In this study we discussed the perception of algae as a food, experience of eating algae and algae-based products, and the role that algae could play in making the food system more sustainable. The goal was to obtain insights on how consumers perceive algae to enable actors in the food chain to develop more tailored consumer-centric product propositions and campaigns, as a step towards achieving a healthier, more sustainable food system. This work forms part of a series of studies to gain consumer insights which are important for EIT Food and the EU.