Mara has taken one of Britain’s undervalued natural resources – seaweed –and transformed it into a premium food brand. Mara’s first-to-market range of delicious seaweed seasonings, are a new superfood condiment that adds flavour to food. Mara’s mission is to make Mara a must-have in your daily diet -– as commonplace as salt or ketchup. Mara products are now available nationwide and online.
The Mara tagline “Flavours of Scotland” is targeting export markets that value Scotch whisky and shortbread, and countries in Asia that already eat seaweed on a daily basis.
After four years of building the company and the brand, Mara now has a platform to extend the brand’s product portfolio with other premium seaweed food products in its new product portfolio, that fulfill Mara’s vision to “nourish body and soul”.
What Problems does Mara solve?
1. Healthy Salt: our products fit the trend for replacing table salt with healthy, high flavour alternatives. Mara’s products can be used instead of salt. (Sea salt: 98% sodium chloride; Mara seaweed: average10%).
2. Fulfills iodine gap in the Western diet. Since 1992, the World Health Organisation has recognised iodine deficiency in European diet. It is estimated that up to two-thirds of women in the UK have insufficient iodine in their diet; iodine is an essential nutrient for healthy thyroid function, metabolism and cognitive health, and is especially important during pregnancy and breast feeding. Mara has developed the nutrient profile of its products, so that it can make nutritional claims such as ‘rich in iodine’. Mara’s premium, easy to use, natural shake-on seasonings make it easy to get natural iodine into your diet – and it tastes good too.
3. Nourish the Soul: customers want to make ethical, provenance-based purchasing decisions. Mara is authentic. We are what we say on the tin: we hand harvest a select range of seaweeds sourced ethically and honestly from pure, cold Atlantic waters. We are reviving an ancient tradition in a sustainable way and appealing the to consumer’s image of Scotland.
4. On trend with foodies: Seaweed is the new “ingredient to watch” (Datamonitor) – a healthy, natural flavour enhancer, adding umami, (‘the fifth taste’) to food and equally complimenting both savoury and sweet foods. Mara has numerous chef and celebrity endorsements, winning over converts such as Paul Hollywood, who described Mara’s Shony product as “inexplicably delicious!” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z_cY2HXJxc)
Mara makes it easy to be healthy: Mara is first-to-market with its easy-to-use flakes that can be used just like a herb or salt: it is a food innovation.
How does it work?
Mara turns low value seaweed into a high-value branded product. (Great Taste Awards, 2012-14).
Mara is building the brand: we have already invested in a new product pipeline to add to our existing Award-winning seasoning range.
Mara is an innovative, sea-to-shelf producer – experts in the finest seaweed -with a sustainable, scaleable business model. Now that we have developed our production capacity, we are in a position to develop our range and our markets.
Mara wild harvests a range of highly flavoursome and nutritious seaweeds under Crown Estate license around the Scottish coastline.
We also collaborate with other aquaculture producers and academia, to farm seaweed, both on ropes and in tanks. (Interface Excellence Award, (Sustained Partnership) 2014, Scottish Aquaculture Award (Innovation) 2015)
We believe we have a valuable R&D pipeline and have developed an in-house expertise in all aspects of seaweed from sea-to-plate. This includes full scientific analysis of the nutritional values of our products that allow us to make legally compliant nutritional claims that can help sell our products in new markets.
UK first commercial seaweed farm to the best of our knowledge, 2013, (Innovate UK Award, 2014)
What have we achieved so far?
Since the founders set out their business plan in 2011, the Company has achieved the following:
2011-2013 – Development of Mara Brand, Award-winning products, production and supply chain.
Dec 2013- completion of Friends & Family investment round
April 2014 – launch of Shaker tin and gift range in Harrods Food Hall and independent retailers, Now in distribution in other premium retail outlets such as Harvey Nichols, Booths, and Historic Scotland tourist outlets such as Edinburgh Castle and online.
Moved into production premises and set up production facility: with drying, milling, packaging, product development and HQ.
August 2014 – launch of Pouch range in Whole Foods, now in Planet Organic, health stores and into UK distributors nationwide.
2014-15 development of export markets Hong Kong, Singapore and China.
May 2015 – launch in M&S nationwide.
Increasingly seen as leading the field in both brand, product and innovation.
- Finalist, BBC Food and Farming Awards, Best Producer. (2015)
- Great Taste (2012, 2013, 2014),
- Wiiner,BQ Emerging Entrepreneur (Scotland); (2015)
- Interface Excellence Award (Sustained Partnership);
- Winner, The Crown Estate Scottish Aquaculture Awards for Innovation; (2015)
- Scottish Business Awards shortlist Innovation;
- EDGE Award £50,000
Currently, Mara’s profile is high. Featured on BBC Radio Four Food Programme, BBC Scotland (“Scotland Brand”), and numerous media outlets; some as sole feature, some included in the growing trend for seaweed.
Daily Mail Online, May 2015, “Mother…harvesting seaweed by hand sells it to M&S”
The Times, May 2015, “Seaweed set to be the next superfood”
The Grocer, May 2015, “Focus on Scotland”
The Telegraph, May 2015 “Slimy but nutritious: why we need to eat more seaweed”
Need for New Funding
In 2013-2014 we raised £521,840. We set up our production premises, invested in our products, and hired a team.
We are now seeking a further £500,000 to enter export markets, largely to invest in building the brand through additional sales and marketing resource;
build out production facilities,
and working capital to build up seaweed inventory.