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The seaweed hydrocolloid industry: 2016 updates, requirements, and outlook


The seaweed hydrocolloid industry, comprising agar, alginate, and carrageenan extracts, continues to grow in the order of 2–3% per year with the Asia-Pacific region increasingly dominating the raw material and manufacturing aspects of the industry. Geographic overviews, also in a historical perspective, of seaweed raw material availability including prices and consumption, manufacturing capacities, and utilizations and sales of extracts is presented. Some current and future industry dynamics, requirements, and changing structures, e.g., Indonesia’s increasingly dominant role within farming of agar and carrageenan-bearing seaweed species, randomly imposing of seaweed harvest restrictions or ban on exports, creation of a global certification standard for seaweed, and supply-demand dynamics for seaweed versus future global population are presented. The industry is increasingly being commoditized and China has become an important and, in many cases, dominant factor within all types of seaweed hydrocolloids and some explanations to this and strategic response by the rest of the industry is also touched upon. Also presented are some areas where the seaweed industry needs help from the scientific community. The main challenge is the ongoing general seaweed deterioration experienced in cultivated species—how are the strains to be improved and revitalized and can cultivation techniques be improved further? There is a general trend towards sustainability and, although seaweed cultivation and harvest can be sustainable, there is interest in the development of greener processes.

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This paper has been prepared by the authors based on their knowledge and many years of direct involvement with the seaweed hydrocolloid industry and in particular carrageenan. To help with, or verify, our trade data and scientific information, we are especially thankful to Kechang Li, Bright Moon, and Tim Ngan, Green Fresh who updated us on the agar, alginate, and carrageenan developments in China and Claudio Banados, Alimex in Chile and Peru. Anastacio Cambonga and Hariadi Adnan both retired from CP Kelco and Soerianto Kusnowirjono of Agarindo Bogatama helped us with trade data and perspectives for Indonesia and the Philippines. The authors take full responsibility for the content of this paper.

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Correspondence to Hans Porse.

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Porse, H., Rudolph, B. The seaweed hydrocolloid industry: 2016 updates, requirements, and outlook. J Appl Phycol 29, 2187–2200 (2017).

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  • Hydrocolloids
  • Agar
  • Alginate
  • Carrageenan