Sea Grant eyes potential of kelp tortillas, chips

You won’t see them on the snack platter for Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 13, but don’t count kelp tortillas and kelp chips out for future major sports events or friends and family gatherings.

As the number of kelp farms increases in coastal Alaska, researchers like Alaska Sea Grant seafood technology specialist Chris Sannito looking at multiple product possibilities for the nutritious vegetation, which is low in calorie and sodium, cholesterol free and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Sannito has been working to the Anchorage-based tortilla and chip company Taco Loco to incorporate kelp into their products.

This past November, Sannito, who works at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center in Kodiak, brought Taco Loco tortillas and chips to Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle for a test run of the new products. The unique ocean flavor of the products, which looked like spinach tortillas and chips, proved popular, he said.

“It is really good as a fish wrap,” he said.

His research also involved toasting and deep frying the two products.


While Taco Loco has no immediate plans to start producing kelp tortillas or kelp chips, Sannito said he figures they have marketing potential. The popularity of the tortillas during an Alaska Symphony of Seafoods event at Pacific Marine Expo has spawned new ideas, he said.

Sannito is also testing flavors including sweet miso, creamy dill, spicy parmesan and Mediterranean kelp products.

Sannito’s overall work is on food safety and environmental compliance, seafood processing and product development. His projects include investigating new technologies for processing seaweed and testing new markets for the flavorful kelp. His research involves interactions with small family businesses to major seafood processors. He also teaches classes for seafood processors and others, including instruction on how to smoke seafood, the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) management system, quality control, sanitation and other processing-related matters.

The Kodiak facility is equipped with a commercial kitchen, biochemistry labs and a pilot-scale food processing facility that researchers use to develop new seafood products and to test various new production techniques.