Seaweed, a novel food in western cuisine, is gaining popularity as consumers seek more healthy food options and alternative protein sources. Seaweed farming in the U.S. is an emerging and fast-growing aquaculture segment that offers fishermen, farmers, and food processors an opportunity to diversify operations or start a new business venture while providing ecosystem benefits to the ocean, including improved water quality. To help farmers better evaluate seaweed’s market potential and develop strategies to enter or expand the market, it is necessary to gain a comprehensive understanding of U.S. consumers’ preferences and attitudes towards seaweed and value-added products.
A few studies have investigated consumer preferences for name labeling, purchasing venues, production methods, production origin, and certification claims of seaweed products using samples in a specific state/region in the U.S. or foreign countries such as France. Other studies have analyzed consumer perceptions, attitudes, and purchase intentions towards seaweed products in Sweden, Spain, and Canada through in-person surveys or lab tastings. There is limited research on U.S. consumers’ preferences and attitudes towards seaweed products, especially using a large-scale national sample. No existing studies distinguish between seaweed consumers and non-consumers and investigate their purchase intentions separately, an important perspective for seaweed farmers to evaluate consumer segments and make decisions on marketing strategies.
In this study, we aim to contribute to the aquaculture literature and industry by providing a comprehensive understanding of U.S. consumers’ preferences and attitudes towards seaweed and value-added products. In particular, we study the consumers who consume seaweed and those who do not consume seaweed separately to compare their attitudes and examine the characteristics and factors affecting their attitudes. Our specific objectives include three perspectives. First, we explore the characteristics of U.S. seaweed consumers and non-consumers, including their knowledge, perceptions, and preferences for seaweed products. We also summarize the factors that the non-consumers perceive as barriers for them to consuming seaweeds and the factors that may encourage them to try seaweeds. Second, we compare the intentions to try new products flavored with or containing seaweeds between seaweed consumers and non-consumers and investigate the factors affecting their purchase intentions. Third, we provide suggestions about potential marketing strategies for the seaweed industry stakeholders to expand the seaweed market to meet consumers’ needs.