Photo: Thorkild Amdi Christensen

New extraction methods to reduce seaweed industry waste

Tuesday 26 Apr 16


Charlotte Jacobsen
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 23 27 90 75


Susan Løvstad Holdt
Associate Professor
National Food Institute
+45 93 51 89 22

Danish companies aim to extract and sell more of the valuable compounds in seaweed and the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, is going to help the companies do so in a three-year project. The project will reduce production waste and has just received more than seven million Danish kroner in funding from the Danish government’s Green Development and Demonstration Programme.

When Danish companies today extract ingredients from seaweed for use in various food and consumer products, several valuable compounds go to waste. In a new project the National Food Institute will use its expertise within seaweed research in cooperation with four Danish companies. The aim is to better utilize the valuable compounds in seaweed and thereby achieve a higher return. The project has received more than seven million Danish kroner in funding from the Danish government’s Green Development and Demonstration Programme.

Utilizing red seaweed better

Danish company CP Kelco is one of the world’s biggest producers of carrageenan – an additive that is used as a stabilizer and thickener in everything from chocolate milk and meat products to toothpaste and facial creams. However, when the company extracts carrageenan from the imported red seaweed Eucheuma spinosum, valuable proteins, natural food colours and antioxidants are lost in the production waste.

The National Food Institute and CP Kelco have developed a method to extract both protein and food colours in the lab, which reduces production waste. In the project the method will be further developed for use on a commercial scale. GEA, which is another project partner and a company that specializes in freeze drying, will explore how to dry the extracted protein most carefully.

New extraction methods will also be developed for the protein-rich red seaweed, Palmaria palmata, which can be grown in Danish waters, but is currently imported by project partner Nordisk Tang by Endelave Seaweed. In laboratory experiments, it has been possible to extract 70% of the seaweed’s protein content.

Carrageenan alternative from Danish seaweed

The National Food Institute will also cooperate with CP Kelco to develop methods to extract a carrageen-like compound from Furcellaria lumbricalis – a red seaweed, which can be harvested in the Baltic Sea. The compound furcelleran has functional properties, which give fx ice cream and filled chocolates a better mouthfeel than when using carrageenan as a stabilizer.

This part of the project will also focus on extracting other valuable compounds such as protein, food colours and antioxidants.

The researchers will study the proteins, which are extracted from the three different types of seaweed, to see if it is possible to use them in the production of different foods and feed – fx in protein shakes made by project partner Third Wave Nutrition.

Read more

On 19-24 June 2016 the National Food Institute will host the 22nd international Seaweed Symposium, which will focus on the latest research on how to best and most safely use seaweed.

Read more about the symposium, which is organized in cooperation with Aarhus University, University of Southern Denmark and the seaweed industry, in the National Food Institute’s news item from 4 April 2016: International symposium serves up latest research on seaweed.