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Seaweed-infused ice cream tickles Japan's umami tastebuds

Soup stock maker adds new depth to traditional soft serve

Umami soft serve with a tomato-dashi sauce combines sweetness and a savory undertone. (Photo courtesy of Futaba)

TOKYO -- Japan is a country obsessed with novelty flavored snacks, such as KitKats made with local specialties. It now has another one to boast about: a soft serve ice cream featuring umami flavoring derived from kelp.

Futaba, which produces soup stock for commercial kitchens, is behind the new product. The company says seaweed-derived umami, a Japanese term meaning savory, adds a rich taste to ice cream made with fresh milk from locally raised cows.

And the joy does not end there. For a full experience, customers can top their bowls with a puree of tomato and dashi, a usually fish-based stock used often in Japanese cooking, or with a sauce made from grapes and balsamic vinegar.

The 450 yen (about $4) treat is available at a directly run store in the Niigata Prefecture city of Sanjo, where Futaba is based. The tomatoes and grapes featured in the toppings are grown in Niigata.

Futaba focuses mostly on commercial products but has been working to make inroads into the retail market in recent years. The soft serve is part of its strategy to gain more traction among consumers.

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