Edinburgh mums Fiona Houston and Xa Milne are riding the crest of a wave in their endeavour to take a little-known Scottish superfood from the seashore to our supermarket shelves.
Co-founders of Granton-based Mara Seaweed, the duo were delighted to secure top spot in the Healthy Choice category of this year’s Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards for their shake-on seaweed seasoning.
Seen as a healthy alternative to salt, the product is now on sale at Morrison stores nationwide and is also available at independent retailers and delis across the Capital and beyond.
Last year saw Mara’s first exports to the United States and they already have their sights set on more distant shores – with ambitions to go global.
“Mara is bringing an ancient superfood to the customer in a format that’s easy-to-use and understand – a shake-on seasoning,” says Mara SeaEO Fiona.
“We believe that our seaweed is relevant to consumers who want to buy products with both great taste and fantastic nutritional benefits. As well as enhancing the flavour of food, Mara Seaweed offers a way of reducing salt while adding a superboost of healthy essential minerals, fibre and protein.”
It was while chatting in the playground of St Mary’s RC Primary School, in East London Street, that Fiona and Xa discovered a shared interest in wild foods and foraging.
“We reminisced about growing up in the Borders countryside, and wondered what we could do to connect our children to this wonderful natural larder,” adds Fiona. “We also wanted to share a love of traditional Scottish cooking and ingredients.”
The chance meeting led to the publication of their book “Seaweed and Eat It” in 2008, the success of which convinced them that seaweed was Scotland’s undiscovered natural superfood and that it was time to build a new Scottish food brand that would be “fiercely independent and very authentic”.
Having decided to sink their initial savings into the new business venture – processing seaweed harvested from unspoiled areas of Scotland’s coastline – they were able to raise investment to develop the branding and packaging and to secure a production facility.
Launched in 2013, Mara (Gaelic for sea) now employs 10 full-time staff and an army of production workers and harvesters.
Mara Seaweed, 6 Long Craig Rigg, West Shore Road, Edinburgh EH5 1QT, 0131 552 1323, www.maraseaweed.com.