Building Products that Positively Impact Climate – and Community, with Zoe Croft of Atlantic Sea Farms

By Laura Foti

Building Products that Positively Impact Climate – and Community, with Zoe Croft of Atlantic Sea Farms

Posted on August 16, 2022
  • August 16, 2022

Building Products that Positively Impact Climate – and Community, with Zoe Croft of Atlantic Sea Farms

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Laura Foti Photo

In this episode of the Beyond the Shelf: Product & Packaging Podcast, Laura Foti spoke with Zoe Croft, Director of Sales at Atlantic Sea Farms, the first commercially viable seaweed farm in the U.S., on innovation in emerging categories, how products can directly impact sustainability, and how to create meaningful partnerships. 

If you’ve eaten at a sushi restaurant, you’ve likely seen the electric-green seaweed salad. 

But if Atlantic Sea Farms has its way, that will be a thing of the past.

Why? 

According to Zoe Croft, the Director of Sales, at Atlantic Sea Farms, the seaweed we typically see in the United States is imported and typically dried, rehydrated and dyed a bright green when it’s served on our plates. 

As the first commercially viable seaweed farm in the United States, Atlantic Sea Farms provides a domestic fresh and healthy alternative to imported seaweed products (so no more electric-green seaweed!)

The company is also having an impact on the climate (Kelp naturally removes carbon from the atmosphere) and the local community of fisherman and lobsterman in Maine, where the company is based.

Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.

You can catch the full episode here – and be sure to leave a rating or review if you liked the show – it helps others find the podcast. 

On making their product the “climate hero” of their sustainability story 

“I think that there are so many different ways that companies can give back or have a positive impact on the planet, whether that’s becoming solar powered or investing in 1% for the planet, or shifting towards organic sourcing. What’s unique about what we’re doing is the kelp’s actually doing the work. The kelp is the climate hero. It’s really a vehicle of change, and every time you eat one of our products, you’re participating in that positive impact.

As many opportunities that we have, a lot of times our food choices have some sort of negative impact on the planet. And kelp is one of those really unique products that requires no arable land, no fresh water, no herbicides, no pesticides, and it’s actually providing a positive impact to the ocean. And we’re so lucky to be able to be the group of people that gets to shout that from the rooftops. I feel really lucky and really fortunate to be a part of a team that’s innovating at a level that hasn’t been done for domestic seaweed before. So it’s a win for everyone.”

On how their kelp farms are positively impacting the local economy 

“The Gulf of Maine, where our partner farmers have their kelp farms, is warming faster than 98% of all other bodies of water on the planet. And we’re seeing that impact in real time. We’re all having some of these record setting heat waves right now. We’re all kind of seeing this firsthand, but these lobstering communities are even seeing it in their fishery. 

These lobsters are migrating towards colder waters, they’re moving up more into Canadian waters and out into more of the open ocean. And so we’re able to help mitigate some of those effects. Kelp is countercyclical to the lobstering industry, so there’s this really nice year round income that our partner farmers have of lobstering during their fishing season and then growing kelp in their off season. It’s having a positive impact on their local fishing waters.”

On the benefits of locally or nationally sourced products

“A topic on all of our minds right now is sourcing, and domestic sourcing. And what comes with that? What benefits not only dollars-wise does that have, but the traceability aspect? I can take this jar of seaweed salad and tell you the exact cove that Drew and Liz went diving in to collect the source tissue that then became the seeds for the kelp that’s in this jar.

So I think there’s that element to it. There’s a big piece of ‘know your farmer.’ And for a lot of us, that’s family, friends, community members that have been respected for generations and we want to share their story with our suppliers. So it gives you a really incredible storytelling aspect that I think more and more consumers are looking for.” 

On the importance of speaking to not only customers, but partners

“A key part of our team is the partnership side of things. Explaining to not only customers, but retailers, buyers, chefs that what we’re doing is important. What we’re doing is filling opportunity in the market. So many places are getting their own sustainability goals and we can help them reach those by sourcing kelp. It’s been awesome to find those strategic partnerships and help them grow and show them the impact that they’re having here in Maine.”

On using packaging for storytelling

“There’s so much information on [our packaging], that we worked really hard on. You’ve got the, “Do you know?” which gives you facts. You’ve got a recipe on there. You can see all of the different climate callouts. We have our partner farmer picture here. This is Ben Stendel, and he’s amazing. And so we have a lot of great information here that’s important for the retailer and important for the consumer to know.”

On product innovation through company partnerships 

“Well, I think if we’re going to promote being a good partner as an ingredient, we should be promoting our own ingredients as well. And so second to the wild blueberry on my list are our Cranberry Kelp Cubes. This is a partnership with Ocean Spray and we use their cranberry puree and we also use their cranberry seeds, which is an upcycled part of their process. You don’t find cranberry seeds in your cranberry sauce or your cranberry juice. Typically, these are a discarded item for us, but they actually have more dietary fiber than chia and flax and they’re so good for you. So we tell all of that information here on the side. We love working with the regenerative farms at Ocean Spray, again, a New England crop. Important for us to be sourcing close to home.”

Listen to the whole episode here – and be sure to stay tuned through the end for one of my favorite “Keep, Kill, Change” segments, where we make Zoe decide between top sheets, number two pencils, and can openers.

Beyond the Shelf: The Product & Packaging Podcast

In this podcast, we’ll interview experts and industry leaders across food, beauty, CPG, and industrials.

We’re going to go beyond the shelf and get a behind-the-scenes look into the things you use every day – and even the ones you don’t.