New Innovator: Wild Irish Sea Veg
Gerard Talty of Wild Irish Sea Veg. Photograph: John Kelly
Seaweed is one of nature’s richest sources of vitamins and minerals but sushi lovers aside, a lot of people would find the prospect of munching on a piece of seaweed unappealing.
Gerard Talty, founder of Wild Irish Sea Veg in Spanish Point, Co Clare, has come up with a solution – a range of seven dried seaweed mixes that can be easily added to soups, stews and dressings or used to top pizzas and bakes. The sprinkles (which come in similar shaker jars to dried herbs) have just been launched in Ireland.
“What people often don’t realise is that seaweed takes on the flavour of the ingredients around it so it is very palatable, especially in the sprinkles format,” Talty says.
Talty’s family has been harvesting seaweed for generations. His father, Michael, who is a consultant to the company, spent many years as a seaweed buyer for Irish Marine Products, which sold seaweed to industry for use in a range of products from washing-up liquid to fertiliser.
In 2009, Gerard and Eileen Talty set up Wild Irish Sea Veg with two products – dillisk and carrageen. There are now more than 15 in the range and the company’s products are available in more than 1,000 outlets, including Selfridges in London.
“All of our seaweeds are hand-harvested and air- and sun-dried to ensure the best possible quality,” Talty says. “Seaweed contains a broad range of minerals and has many hugely beneficial properties that can help with stress-relief, assist with reducing blood pressure and improve skin and hair.”
“Athletes include it in their diets for its magnesium and people have started to become more aware because some of the big-name celebrities are taking it and talking about it.”
Talty estimates it has cost about €100,000 to establish the business, which has been mostly self-funded with some assistance under the Leader programme.
The company does its own harvesting and also buys from local families.
While some seaweed varieties can be harvested for most of the year, others are only available for a very short period. The Atlantic wakame “season” for example, is just eight days a year.
“From the outset we wanted an operation that was fully organically certified and met all of the necessary health regulations. We felt it was very important for customers to have complete trust in the products,” Talty says.
“It is now a question of scaling the business,” he adds. “The Irish market is manageable but when you start supplying the UK the jump in quantities is vast.
“At the moment we are employing people as needed but my estimate is that we will be taking on between 10 and 12 people full-time next year.”