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This Bay Area-based startup is turning seaweed into vegan bacon that is ultra-realistic in taste and texture. Umaro Foods said that seaweed is the secret to making vegan bacon so realistic. Recently, the company appeared on Shark Tank and agreed to a deal with Mark Cuban.

Source: Sony Pictures Television/YouTube

The CEO and co-founder of Umaro Foods, Beth Zotter, first began working with kelp with a company that was trying to develop sea-weed-based biofuels, Fast Company reported. Although it didn’t last, Zotter began to think of other ways that seaweed could be used.

“I knew that I wanted to do something commercial and that biofuel was not going to be commercially viable anytime soon,” she says. “This is about the same time that the alternative protein movement was really taking off, and Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods were becoming household names. The idea occurred to me then, Well, what if seaweed could be a protein source?”

Kelp per acre grown in the ocean can produce five times as much protein as a field of soybeans, Zotter says. The company developed a way to extract the protein from the seaweed and then partnered with the food innovation lab at Oregon State University to develop the rest of the vegan bacon. The company says that part of the meaty taste comes from the seaweed. Fast Company reported that the word “umami,” given to foods with a savory flavor, actually came from research on seaweed.

Umaro Foods uses a combination of chickpeas, coconut, and sunflower oil, among other plant-based ingredients, to make the bacon. The most important part is the “fat encapsulation” from the seaweed gel, which is what helps give the final product a crispy and fatty feel.

The company is working on a piece of automated equipment to cut down the cost of production.

“Once that’s completed, we should be able to beat the price of pork bacon,” says Zotter.

Their bacon launched in a few restaurants this summer and is now available wholesale and in select restaurants. To learn more about the bacon, check out Umaro Foods’s website.

The plant-based food market is booming, and research suggests it could make up 7.7 percent of the global protein market by 2030. With a value of $29.4 billion in 2020, experts suggest that the plant-based foods market could have a value of over $162 billion by the end of the decade.

Check out these vegan bacon recipes you can make at home!

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