A taste for Norwegian seaweed: Tekslo Seafood
"At low tide, we wade out to gather the seaweed just outside our office," says Marianne Skogvold of Tekslo Seafood, the Norwegian company that could soon be bringing seaweed-based seasonings, supplements, and beauty products to households worldwide.
It's not every marketing director that gets to participate in the harvest of the prime raw ingredient for their products, but that's part of the hands-on philosophy at the heart of Tekslo, a company that started out as a hobby shared among friends, that has grown into a Norwegian seaweed success story.
Perched on the wind and wave-battered North Sea coast, the company takes its name from the nearby Tekslo lighthouse, in an area of Norway known for its exposed coastline, wild seas – and abundant seaweed.
Run by a trio of friends, Runar Trellevik, Robert Trellevik and Jan Petter Monsen, Tekslo Seafood uses wild-harvested Norwegian seaweed to produce a wide range of edible products, from dietary supplements, to flavour enhancers, and seaweed spice blends under the brand name Sjøsaker ("Sea Savouries").
Now the company plans to bring seaweed and its many beneficial properties to a wider market, both within Norway and around the world.
From Norwegian seaweed traditions to the global marketplace
Seaweed has been used as a source of nutrition for centuries, says CEO and co-founder Runar Trellevik. Its culinary use in Norway can be traced back to Viking times, when it was used to prevent scurvy on long voyages.
Among its many nutritional properties, seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, folate (vitamin B), magnesium, calcium, iron, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin A, amino acids, and antioxidants, Trellevik explains.
"When you combine the healthy aspect with the great taste, you have a winning combo," he says.
Trellevik's experience of growing up on the Norwegian coast, and his memories of collecting seaweed with his grandfather, inspired him to take a business interest in seaweed, long before the current surge of interest in algae.
"When I was studying chemical engineering back in 2006, I was reading a lot about alginate extraction from seaweed, and knew already then that I wanted to work with seaweed. But fate wanted it otherwise and I worked in the oil industry until 2017 before I finally decided to follow my dream," he says.
A sustainable approach, from harvest to product
Harvesting, drying and processing are very labour-intensive processes, Trellevik explains. As the company expands, they are looking into partnering with seaweed farmers to increase and stabilize their supply, as well as possibly cultivating their own seaweed under licence.
Part of Tekslo's philosophy, Trellevik says, is their regenerative approach, carefully harvesting seaweed foliage in a way that leaves the root of the plant intact, ready to regrow and be harvested again the following year.
"Even though we have been harvesting wild seaweed in a sustainable way, we see that the future lies in farmed seaweed as it will have a lower impact on the existing ecosystems", says Trellevik.
Low-impact skincare with all the benefits of seaweed
This philosophy also extends to the company's new cosmetic line, Sollmar, headed up by Skogvold, who is also the company's marketing director.
"We have a "zero waste" philosophy, and we use the entire raw material in production," she explains, saying what is left over is used for garden fertilizer or bird food near the company's production site. "We are also working on our packaging to make it more sustainable," she adds.
This low-impact, innovative approach extends to the skincare products themselves, Skogvold explains.
"We evaluated a lot of different types of seaweed to see what is best for the skin," she says, saying that the team selected dulse, a type of red algae, for its high level of antioxidants and other beneficial skin properties.
"Sollmar uses a unique fermentation process for the seaweed, yielding highly concentrated nutrients. We work according to the "raw food" principle, so we use only minimal heating of the raw materials. The result is that the nutrients are easily absorbed by the skin, and the product retains the highest possible quality," she explains.
"We've recently conducted consumer tests, with highly positive results, which we are very pleased about," she says.