The global commercial seaweeds market size is calculated to be at USD 6.3 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to witness a CAGR of 9.1% over the forecast period. Technological developments in cultivating cultured seaweed coupled with rising investments in application segments, including animal feed and agriculture, are likely to propel market growth in the coming years.

Increasing awareness pertaining to the health benefits of the product coupled with increasing demand for foods and snacks derived from commercial seaweed is estimated to boost the human consumption application segment. The swelling demand for marine plant extracts, used as a thickening and gelling agents in the cosmetic and food industries, is also likely to boost growth, primarily in North America and Europe.

The industry in the U.S. was valued at USD 311.4 million in 2019. It was the fastest-growing region in North America owing to the strong presence of application industries. The industry in the U.S. is anticipated to expand further due to increasing awareness regarding the application of the product in the pharmaceutical industry.

The consumption of commercial seaweed as food can be traced back to the 4th century in Japan and the 6th century in China. Today, China, Japan, and South Korea are the leading consumers of the product. However, as residents from these countries migrated to other countries, the demand for the product for food has shifted with them, as, for instance, in a few parts of the U.S. along with South America.

Increasing demand over the last fifty years outstripped the ability to supply requirements from natural (wild) stocks. Research regarding the life cycles of commercial sea vegetables have led to the development of cultivation industries that now produce more than 90.0 percent of the overall demand. In Ireland, Iceland and Nova Scotia (Canada), a different type of sea vegetable has traditionally been eaten, and the market for commercial seaweed is being developed.

For centuries, seaweed has been utilized across the globe, and was considered only as a food source for coastal communities decades ago. Apart from its widespread use in many industries, commercial sea vegetables add significantly to the nutritional status of the community owing to its rich composition of macronutrients (calcium, sodium, potassium among others), micronutrients (iodine, iron, zinc among others), and vitamins.

Foods derived from commercial sea vegetables are considered to be rich in iodine. Brown seaweed also contains vitamin B-9, B-2, and B-12, iron, magnesium, and fiber. The product segment is estimated to witness a strong CAGR during the forecast period due to wide application scope. Rising health awareness coupled with continuous research and development activities aimed towards the development of product applications is expected to propel segment growth.

Food produced from brown seaweeds is mostly from the genera Undaria, Laminaria, and Hizikia. Initially, yields from natural sea vegetables were the only source, but with increasing demand from the last 50 years, new practices for cultivation have been developed. Currently, commercial seaweed for food is mainly cultured rather than natural sources.

Based on form, the commercial seaweeds market has been bifurcated into liquid, powdered, and flakes. In 2019, the liquid commercial seaweed emerged as the largest segment with a revenue share of more than 52.0%. The liquid form of commercial sea vegetables is utilized as foliar fertilizer and soil conditioner for plants to provide minerals, vitamins, potassium, and enzymes that accelerate plant growth.