Pumpkin Spice items come and go each year.
But it looks like an even more unusual flavor is here to stay: seaweed.
BakeryandSnacks.com's Hal Conick cites a recent report from Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business and author of The Next Big Opportunity in Snacking: Five Steps to Creating a Success with Seaweed, saying that retail sales of seaweed snacks in the U.S. were valued at $250 million in 2014, with growth of 30%. By Mellentin's count, 27 seaweed snack products were launched in the U.S. that year and 57 in Europe.
Don't take his word for it. In July, Marica Mogelonsky, global food analyst at research firm Mintel, told the site that seaweed "has become more acceptable in western snack markets, not only as a topping on other snacks, but also as a snack on its own."
Last month, Simone Baroke, contributing analyst at research group Euromonitor, broke down the state of the seaweed market.
"It certainly looks like its time may finally have come, precipitated by the convergence of several important trends: high protein, meat reduction, sustainability and ethical food production," she said in a report a Euromonitor rep emailed to me. "Seaweed is able to effortlessly key into all of these."
He also noted seaweed "is infinitely more nutritious than lettuce, or even the 'supergreen of the moment', aka kale."
The most common type of seaweed snacks are nori and other dried seaweed foods. These products now have their own category on Amazon, alongside staples like flours and doughs. Jayone Seaweed, Roasted and Lightly Salted, is now the No. 246 most-popular item in Amazon's overall grocery category, which contains thousands of other products.
The rising star in the category is Dulse flakes, a seaweed-based product that Quartz described as the bacon of seaweed. It's currently the No. 7 best-seller in Amazon's "noodle" category, which is only a few places behind the massively popular Annie's Homegrown Shells & White Cheddar.
Meanwhile, here's the Google Trends chart showing a steadily rising trend in seaweed searches in the U.S.
And here are the top-three rising Google trends for seaweed in America.
Euromonitor's Baroke says seaweed will still likely need to overcome some consume acceptance hurdles, and will also face occasional supply shortages.
"But, with a bit of effort from the industry, these issues can be overcome," she concludes.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.