Startup capitalises on growing appetite for seaweed
A Tyne and Wear business selling products made from seaweed is expanding across the UK as Britons strive to cut their intake of meat and embrace a more plant-based diet.
Seaweed & Co., founded by a marine biologist from the North East, already sells its range of culinary oils infused with seaweed and seaweed nutritional supplements in Holland and Barrett and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.
However, with a growing interest in seaweed-based products, Seaweed & Co. is attracting interest from other major retailers.
Seaweed & Co.’s Weed & Wonderful range of culinary oils is now also available in Lakeland stores across the UK and its Pure Organic Seaweed Capsules will launch in select Boots stores and on Boots.com this month.
The Waitrose Food and Drink Report 2019, which reported on last year’s food and drinks trends, listed seaweed alongside noodles and tahini as one of the foods that 'led the way this year'. Its analysts said that searches for 'aanori seaweed' were up 127% as growing numbers of Britons embrace “Seaganism”, a vegan diet which includes sustainable food sourced from the sea.
Dr Craig Rose, who founded Seaweed & Co., had always been fascinated by the sea and had dreamt about creating a business that was environmentally and commercially sustainable.
Seeing that people were becoming increasingly conscious about where their food came from, he approached Virgin StartUp for a £25,000 Start Up Loan to launch his company.
The business began by supplying food and nutrition manufacturers with a range of seaweed products sourced exclusively from the Outer Hebrides. Last summer Craig launched his own consumer-facing brand, Doctor Seaweed’s Weed and Wonderful, which has gone on to receive a Great Taste award.
Craig said: “I’ve always been an advocate of the benefits of seaweed and launched Seaweed & Co. after noticing the trend towards healthier and ethically-sourced food. It’s brilliant to see that I was right to take the chance on an alternative product, and a forgotten food.
“It’s a huge milestone for the business to have launched nationwide in Lakeland, and in good time to offer people some great tasting and healthy New Year inspirations. We’re also excited to have expanded to such an iconic British store as Boots and are looking forward to further expansion during 2020. None of this would have been possible without the support and advice we received from Start Up Loans.”
Richard Bearman, Managing Director of Start Up Loans, said: “We’re delighted to have helped Craig kickstart such a fantastic business. Growing a business can be tough and his success shows what’s possible when you combine a great idea with passion and determination.”
Andy Fishburn, Managing Director, Virgin StartUp, said: “Virgin StartUp is proud to have supported Craig and the team at Seaweed and Co. Craig is a true entrepreneur who saw a niche gap in the market and created mainstream demand for it. We love to see brands like Seaweed and Co. promoting a more sustainable lifestyle and look forward to seeing them go from strength to strength."
The Start Up Loans programme provides fixed-interest loans of £500 to £25,000 to aspiring business owners from across the UK, many of whom might be struggling to access other forms of finance. Since 2012, it has lent more than £551m through 68,600 loans, of which over £31m went to business owners from the North East.
In addition to finance, Start Up Loan applicants receive support from an experienced business advisor to help them prepare a business plan and cash flow report. Successful applicants are also offered 12 months of free mentoring to guide them through the early stages of their business journey.