Seaweed has been a diet staple for humans for tens of thousands of years. Certainly in Japan, Korea and China, where it still is, so much so that demand far outstrips supply. In the Americas, cooked and partially eaten seaweed has been found in the hearths of the most ancient human settlements. It was easy enough to gather. People living along the coast needed to learn how to catch fish or crack crustaceans, but anyone could stroll along the beach and pick up the nutritious seaweed along the high-water mark.
Somewhere along the line, we in the Western Hemisphere stopped eating seaweed, even though, ounce for ounce, there are more vitamins and minerals in seaweed than any other class of food.
Umaro Foods, founded by Beth Zotter and Amanda Stiles, is working with the University of New Hampshire and the University of New England to establish the first generation of ocean-farmed seaweed technology in the Gulf of Maine. The goal: to make seaweed the most productive, environmentally friendly and flavorful source of protein on this planet.
Seaweed offers the most sustainable, lowest-impact way to source protein, and the ocean is the biggest protein bioreactor. No land is required, no freshwater, no synthetic fertilizers. Amazingly, seaweed can produce five times as much protein per acre than soy.
Umaro Foods Founders: Beth Zotter and Amanda Stiles
- Beth Zotter has a B.A. degree in environmental science and public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.S. degree in energy and resources from Harvard. After taking a brief detour to play professional soccer for the New York Power, Beth researched the cultivation of seaweed for a biofuels company and was a lead investigator into high-yield, low-cost offshore seaweed production for the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Amanda Stiles, with a PhD in plant molecular biology from Virginia Tech, focused her research on protein biochemistry, including protein purification, ingredient functionality, and sensory evaluation. She led the research team at Ripple Foods, a brand of alternative plant-based dairy products, where she developed the process for making an ultra-pure pea protein.
The two joined together to found Umaro Foods and developed a method to transform seaweed from plant to protein and turned that protein into their first product – a delicious new plant-based bacon that contains all nine essential amino acids and loads of vitamin B12.
Umaro bacon is the first umami-rich, highly realistic plant-based bacon made with the proprietary red protein that looks, tastes and smells like the bacon we know and love. The bacon is the result of two innovations: Umaro’s own protein extracted from the ocean-farmed seaweed and the seaweed-based ingredients that encapsulate the plant-based oils into a fat that crisps and crunches just like animal fat.
Umaro bacon comes in three varieties: Original, Hickory Smoke and Maple Bourbon. All of them delicious and seriously nutritious with one of the most perfect umami flavors ever. That salty, smoky umami flavor is what makes it ideal for showcasing the potential of seaweed protein in the future of plant-based meat. That and, after all, bacon is a favorite food in America.
Beth and Amanda see seaweed as the future of protein—a superfood for both people and our planet.