Company sells bottled seawater in Scotland

Having written about sustainability and maximizing use of a dwindling resource for years now, I thought I had heard it all. But I was wrong: A new product hit store shelves in Scotland on Tuesday in the form of a box of seawater. Seawater?

I thought maybe it was 1 April, instead of 1 June. But bottled seawater is set to become the latest must-have ingredient in trendy kitchens and restaurants across the United Kingdom and, its promoter hopes, globally.

The seawater is pumped ashore to the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides, off northwestern Scotland, where it is filtered and UV-treated to ensure it meets European Union drinking water standards. It is then transported to the mainland where it is packed in 3- and 20-liter bag-in-a-box containers.

This “new” product was developed by a United Nations’ sustainable development advisor, Andy Inglis, founder of Acquamara. He was inspired to experiment after discovering an old recipe that mentioned cooking potatoes in seawater. He tried it, liked it, experimented with other foods and found that it was particularly good for use with seafood.

“I then discovered a number of recipes used by Scottish sailors, who were used to cooking with seawater on their vessels and used the same recipes at home,” he said.
A project began forming in Inglis’ head, and it began to make sense when he discovered that Noma, a Copenhagen restaurant recently named as the world’s best restaurant by S. Pellegrino, sells langoustines cooked in seawater as a starter dish.

Using his own resources, Inglis investigated further, found a remote supply, and tentatively offered Edinburgh chefs the opportunity to try it. Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin called it an “exciting ingredient,” and renowned seafood chef Roy Brett can’t get enough of it.

“It is a fantastic product and enhances the flavor of absolutely everything. I use it my restaurant for cooking shellfish and as a base for soups and stocks, and find it gives the dishes a wonderful salty tang,” he said. Brett, once head chef at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall, admits that before regulations changed he regularly cooked with seawater there.

With his sustainable development hat on, Inglis hopes that Acquamara will create jobs in the Hebrides, if demand is sufficient to warrant building a local bottling plant. 

It’s still early for Inglis and Acquamara, but he hopes that consumers will embrace the idea. “Using seawater is a great way to reduce salt intake,” he explained, “because it can be sprayed onto foods such as salads and vegetable and used in place of stock cubes in all manner of dishes.”

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