Tara Treichel of SeaMade
Every month Peloton Labs founder Liz Trice interviews a Peloton member for the West End News. This month Liz caught up with Tara Triechel, the owner of SeaMade, a Maine-based company that makes seaweed-based snacks.
What’s happening with SeaMade during the pandemic?
Our “Cranberry Almond Kelp Bar” is available at Rosemont, Harbor Fish, and Bow Street market, places like that, but with no foot traffic, those sales have almost come to a standstill. No one is calling up and ordering Kelp bars with their fish order!
On the other hand, our bar is produced at Fork Food Lab, and they have an online store, so we’re getting orders through that website. Definitive Brewing contacted Fork and asked for products, and we have a ready to go shelf-stable snack that their customers can buy. Fork is also putting together sample baskets of products produced there. We also set up an account at FoodDrop and are working on getting into Whole Foods.
The other thing is we have time to work on our recipe. Farmed seaweed is available now . . . the only wild food we eat in this country is seafood, and it’s a dwindling supply. Seaweed is a small fraction of the harvest from the ocean, but can we eat wild seaweed forever? So this morning we were experimenting with baking with farmed seaweed – sugar kelp – which we think will give us a more consistent and cleaner product. It brings a really robust flavor, and it’s really high in potassium chloride, so we think it may be popular with endurance athletes.
You’ve been running this company for a while in your spare time. Where is your company in the growth process?
It’s like a little fir tree in the forest that stays small because it’s shaded in the forest, but when there’s a break in the canopy and it gets some sun, it can shoot up very quickly. We’re staying small while finding solutions and waiting for opportunities, like the infrastructure for farmed seaweed in Maine to develop. There’s also a lot of education to convince consumers that seaweed is a viable source of food.
That opening in the canopy could be a large order and then we’d have a different problem – how do we ramp up to fill a big order. It’s hard to be a small producer. You need machinery, you need ingredients in bulk. . . small steady growth can be difficult.
For example, when I started baking small batches in my kitchen, I was using puffed millet. Now that we’re doing larger batches, it turns out you can only buy puffed millet in a 10-ounce bag, or a 220 pound pallet. There’s nothing in between: we cannot find anyone who will sell us 25 pounds! So now we have to replace the ingredient, and then we’ll have to buy new labels and pay for new nutritional analysis.
How has life been for you personally during the pandemic?
I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this time, but I don’t like being on the computer all the time. I have a day job working remotely, and I recognize that Zoom is what we have to stay connected – I have connected with many people on Zoom.
There are some old friends in Wyoming, and if it weren’t for the pandemic, we wouldn’t have connected until we could travel out there again. And we’ve had a few Zoom cocktail dates, which have been fun. And when you compare Zoom to a phone call, Zoom is so much better – I feel like I’ve actually seen someone.
But with my closest girlfriends – I’m not sure. Some of them I haven’t seen in months now. We’re such a sharing and emotive group, and Zoom is not the way I want to connect with those friends, which is unfortunate, because then we don’t connect at all.
I’ve had group work experiences on Zoom, and that’s not very satisfying either.
It seems like there’s a wide variety of experiences people are having.
Yes, I have a friend who is an athlete and likes challenges, and he says that the extra stress has been a focusing influence on him and that he’s thriving under the pressure. Other people feel like they can focus and are not distracted by the demands of the outside world. And then other friends have anxiety that makes them want to avoid going out: Oh no, is that person going to walk too close to me, will they be offended if I step away… And it can be stressful to have to maintain distance from people we love.
I think love is like that in general: it’s most painful when there are barriers to expressing the love we feel.
Learn more from Tara Treichel and SeaMade:
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