Philippines seaweed industry explores new carrageenan applications
The Freeman
December 10, 2016

CEBU, Philippines – Seaweed industry players in the Philippines are starting to explore new applications of carrageenan to expand market coverage.

Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines (SIAP) chairman Maximo A. Ricohermoso said in an interview that the industry is now looking at the beauty and cosmetics sectors as the next “big thing” for the seaweed industry.

Ricohermoso made this statement following the call by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) chief Ramon Lopez encouraging seaweed processors and exporters to explore other markets other than United States as well as other seaweed or carrageenan applications.

Carrageenan, a processed seaweed is known to have a valuable commercial ingredient because of its advantageous properties. When used as an ingredient in beverages, carrageenan preserves texture, structure and stability, enabling the export of countless shelf-stable beverage products. It is particularly suitable for shelf-stable dairy beverages and protein-enriched drinks.

Specifically, carrageenan has continued to be used in dairy-based and enriched beverages, mainly in chocolate milk and chocolate milk applications such as syrups and powdered mix.

Despite its use, carrageenan has been a questionable ingredient because it has been loosely linked to digestive inflammation, evidence that some researchers dispute. Those who defend the use of carrageenan boast of its benefits, including its effectiveness in adding texture and stability to beverages, ice cream and infant formula.

However, the recent decision of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the United States to delist carrageenan as acceptable food additive among organic food products, threatens the growth sustainability of the industry, although the issue of linking carrageenan as non-healthy food additive still has to be confirmed, industry has already felt the negative effect of the “bad publication” in the last two years.

To protect the over 300,000 seaweed farming livelihood  and the US$250 million carrageenan industry, Ricohermoso said the industry players are looking at expanding other applications or uses of carrageenan, and so far beauty and cosmetics offer the highest potential.

Seaweed, like most oceanic materials,is believed to naturally absorbs its nourishment from the sea and therefore contains a considerably high  content of minerals, trace minerals such as iodine, calcium, potassium, iron, amino acids and vitamins. This makes it an extremely attractive and marketable natural ingredient for beauty companies.

Seaweed is frequently harvested by hand and then processed into an extract so that it can be incorporated into beauty products. Whether much or all of the valuable nutrients found in seaweed are lost during the extraction process is uncertain. Beauty companies are nevertheless keen to tout the supposed benefits of seaweed in their products – which include collagen enhancing, rejuvenating, skin firming, antioxidant and hydrating.□