Taco Loco, a tortilla and chip company based in Anchorage, is working with Alaska Sea Grant’s seafood technology specialist, Chris Sannito, to incorporate seaweed into products. One of these products that Sannito and Taco Loco developed is a kelp-seasoned tortilla.
A few months ago, Sannito brought the Taco Loco tortillas to the Alaska Symphony of Seafood in Seattle, which takes place every November as part of the Pacific Marine Expo. The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation sponsors the Symphony, with the goal to encourage innovation through product development and promotion of new products.
Seaweed is common in asian cuisine, especially in Japanese food. It adds salt, umami and a light ocean flavor, and can augment the color and texture of foods. With interest in Alaska mariculture on the rise, more food companies are incorporating kelp and other kinds of seaweed into their products.
The popularity of the tortillas at Alaska Symphony of Seafood spawned new ideas for snack foods, and Sannito is now experimenting with tortilla chips made by frying or baking the kelp tortillas until crisp. Sannito is also testing flavors such as sweet miso, creamy dill, spicy parmesan, and mediterranean.
Sannito is an Alaska Sea Grant Seafood Technology Specialist and works at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, where he focuses on food safety and environmental compliance, seafood processing, and product development. He is involved in several projects investigating new technologies for processing seaweed and testing new markets for this nutritious and flavorful food.
Sannito works with everyone from small family-owned businesses to large seafood processors and enjoys finding creative solutions to challenges affecting the seafood industry. In addition to research, he teaches classes for seafood processors and enthusiasts including smoking seafood, the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) management system, quality control, sanitation and other processing-related subjects.
The Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center is home to state-of-the-art seafood research and development facilities, with a commercial kitchen, biochemistry labs, and a pilot-scale food processing facility used for testing production techniques and developing new seafood products. The center is managed by Alaska Sea Grant and is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.