This week’s 6 questions are with SeaVeg, a small family run business that imports and distributes fresh dried sea vegetables direct from independent pickers and packers in Donegal. Seaweed was previously a staple diet of coastal regions of western Europe and Scandinavia but fell into decline with the growth of imported foods. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, it provides a valuable source of essential B group vitamins, and is an especially valuable addition to vegan diets. SeaVeg’s produce is hand-picked from the clean waters off the coast of North West Donegal, dried using a cool air process, and remains as natural a product as it’s possible to get! We heard from founder Mark Turner about how SeaVeg came to be.
1.How/why and when did you start your business?
Having spent some time in Donegal in the early 1990s spade digging some early organic permaculture projects, I first brought seaweed back from Aramara Teorante in Burton Port for use as a soil conditioner on organic projects – it was the dust – a waste product from the manufacture of Seaweed Meal. Later when visiting on holiday I talked to Manus of Quality SeaVeg about doing a website for him, he explained that he was really not good with computers and if I did it he could send me the products. So we launched SeaVeg.co.uk. At the time there was only one other business in the UK supplying edible seaweeds, which was Irish Seaweeds in Belfast – then Dolphin Sea Vegetables with a very limited range. Two previous firms had wound up, one in Glasgow, and one in Blackpool.
2. What advice would you give to someone starting a new business in the sector?
There will always be a market for high quality produce, its needs to be carefully and sustainable harvested, not over-processed, and packed in a safe and sustainable manner. Never try to compete on price, just on quality, availability, and sustainability.
3. What motivates you?
I love good food, and I enjoy cooking. I like to share my recipes with others through cooking workshops, talks and demonstrations, and my recipe book “Seaweed and Oatcakes”. SeaVeg are great ingredients, and the business is more about dole queue avoidance than world domination. We just about manage to make a profit every year, but it doesn't really earn a wage. I have to go out and do more profitable jobs as well as markets.
4. How do you think the food & drinks industry could improve?
There is far too much packaging in our food and drinks industry, and far too much waste. People rely too much on fast food, and products which are soft white and mushy. There is too much emphasis on price minimalisation, and not enough emphasis on quality and sustainability. Supermarkets have too much dominance of the marketplace, and local markets have been destroyed and replaced with overpriced “Farmers Markets” which only wealthy farmers can afford to trade on. Organic certification favours the large corporates over the smaller enterprise, and this needs to change. When we began the Organic Food movement over thirty years ago its intention was to halt the destruction of wildlife and habitat through the use of pesticides, it has now become more about money and getting a higher price for produce. I first worked on Markets aged 11, they are a great social thing.
5. Is there an individual or organisation, current or in the past, who inspires you?
The organisers of the two main Vegan Fair circuits – Farplace Animal Rescue, and Miracle's Mission, are an inspiration. I love going to their events and often host talks and cooking demonstrations. They work tirelessly and relentlessly for their causes.
6. Apart from Greencity, which other three or more people, living or deceased, would you invite to make a dinner party entertaining?
Albert Einstein, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Lemmy of Motorhead.
If you’d like any more information about SeaVeg, you can check out their website at seaveg.co.uk or contact the Greencity Sales Team who are always happy to help.