GimMe Health Foods is a family-owned business with headquarters in California. Founders Annie Chun and Steve Broad intend to increase the popularity of seaweed, a nutrient-dense superfood, across the USA and beyond in the form of their roasted seaweed snack packs. The product is USDA-certified organic, granted by the QUAI company, and it is also non-GMO Project verified. Annie and Steve are passionate about their product and clearly put effort towards using sustainable practices. However, there could be more transparency when it comes to the labor and supply chain that goes into making the snack, and the packaging is less than ideal with no implication for future change at this point.
There are only three ingredients: organic seaweed, organic sunflower oil, and salt. This vegetable snack also contains nutrients such as iron, fiber, beta-carotene, and calcium. Seaweed farming can even help its environment. Ocean acidification occurs as the water absorbs the atmosphere's CO2, but this absorption can be slowed by seaweed taking up some of the C02 instead! It is important to note, however, that more research is needed to quantify this benefit. While seaweed growth can positively impact its waters, the seaweed sheets themselves come in plastic trays...that then come wrapped in more plastic! There is also a small plastic pouch in the tin that contains silica gel beads. These pouches will easily end up in landfills and our oceans. The plastic tray is recyclable, but the wrappers are not. Finally, while the company is very clear about where the seaweed comes from (the Jangheung county of South Korea) there is a lack of information on where they get the sunflower oil and salt. Sunflower oil production can have both a high carbon footprint and a high water footprint. For example, it can take around 800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of refined sunflower oil.
Seaweed is a low-maintenance, quick-to-grow crop. The farmers have to plant it and then check on it! Studies show that proper seaweed farming does not disrupt wild fish populations or harm the preexisting nutrient levels of the water. The only real emissions tend to be from the boating involved in tending to the crop, as well as any emissions from transporting the product. A huge plus is that seaweed farming does not require any extra water! It doesn’t take up any land, as seaweed simply uses the present marine nutrients and sunlight to grow. This is another big plus, as continued degradation of arable land is leaving it scarce. However, more details on the specific items used in the farming process are important. I would like to know if they are using plastic rope or buoys to tether and mark the crop, or if any plants or reefs are removed to make space for the seaweed. Once the seaweed is finished growing it is sent to the factory where it is minimally processed. It is washed, sheeted, and dried. Then, the sheets go through two rounds of roasting and are salted and packaged.
The creators of this snack do seem to care about the quality and impact of their product. Annie Chun grew up eating seaweed in South Korea, and her knowledge of the culture and cuisine inspired her to start the company. Steve grew up in California and has a deep appreciation for natural, fresh-grown food. That love shines through in the main values of the company. Looking at their labor practices, they have their seaweed grown in South Korea by a group of local farmers. Then the seaweed is shipped to the factory. Beyond that, however, there is a lack of information on the workers and their working conditions. If they were to increase their transparency, an already strong company would not only improve but set a precedent for the industry as a whole.