Edinburgh seaweed producer signed up to Tesco incubator programme

An Edinburgh-based food producer focused on seaweed has been chosen for an incubator programme that has hosted brands such as BrewDog, Fever-Tree and Graze – with the firm describing the development as a “game-changer”.

Fiona Houston (pictured) says being accepted onto the Incubator programme is a "game-changer" for Mara. Picture: Peter Dibdin.

Mara Seaweed is one of six UK food and drink brands, and the only organisation in Scotland, to have been chosen for Tesco’s 2019 Incubator programme. The firm is partnering with the supermarket giant, which looks to help young, innovative suppliers grow and reach their potential – and Mara’s seaweed flakes are seen as a way of reducing sodium salt intake with a mineral-rich nutritious “healthy salt”.

Its products will launch in November in Tesco stores nationwide, in the herbs and spice category.

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Tesco’s Incubator programme was established in 2017, and is designed to boost a “carefully selected group of small entrepreneurial brands that have the potential to offer something different and exciting to customers”. Over the past two years, 28 suppliers have taken part.

Once selected, each participant completes a comprehensive year-long programme that includes advice and guidance on marketing products effectively, responding to Tesco customer insight, as well as tips and mentorship from the supermarket’s product team.

Mara Seaweed was set up in 2013 by Fiona Houston and Xa Milne, who had discovered a shared love of seaweed foraging. It is now a “sea-to-shelf” culinary seaweed brand, with the aim of “nourishing body and soul” with sustainable, local seaweed.

In 2013, Mara (Gaelic for sea) began to sustainably wild harvest under Crown Estate licence in Scotland.

It now has eight staff, working to develop the supply chain and establish the UK’s first sea-to-shelf production facility in Edinburgh, enabling nationwide distribution and export to the US and beyond.

The firm also aims to share the health benefits and essential nutrients of seaweed.

Houston said: “To have been accepted onto the Incubator programme is a game-changer for Mara. It will allow us to learn from industry leaders and develop our brand and long-term partnership with the UK’s biggest retailer.”

Abi Cosgrave, partnership manager at Tesco, added: “It is great to have an innovative Scottish brand participating in this years’ programme. Mara Seaweed won us over with their ethos and unique approach to healthy eating.

“With two-thirds of customers looking for supermarkets to support them to live healthier lives, it’s never been more important for Tesco to offer products that reflect the latest health and wellness trends. Mara are at the forefront of this and we look forward to working with them in the future.”