Vegetable meat was all the rage. Now plant-based seafood is in the spotlight


By Alexis Benveniste, CNN Business

Companies like Beyond Meat Inc and Impossible Foods are seeing strong sales. Earlier this year, Target launched its own line of 30 vegan food options. Even giant Tyson Foods Inc is jumping into the act with its recent introduction of vegan bratwurst and burger patties.

Vegetable meat sales are skyrocketing, but is there a similar appetite for plant-based seafood?

A multitude of small businesses certainly hope so, and they are cramming into the alternative seafood space. Sales of the sector increased 23% from 2019 to 2020, according to data from the Good Food Institute, an organization in nonprofit whose mission is “to accelerate the innovation of alternative proteins on an international scale”, according to its website. In the first half of 2021, the institute said, $ 116 million was invested in the seafood space, surpassing the total of $ 90 million for 2020.

Plant-based seafood could help alleviate demand for freshly caught fish, curbing overfishing that can decrease fish populations, reduce biodiversity in the ocean and harm habitats, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to Molly Masterton, the group’s chief fisheries officer, approximately 5 billion pounds of seafood is consumed each year in the United States, over 90% of which is harvested, raised or processed in countries without strong seafood management laws. sea ​​products.

Environmental benefits

“Giving consumers more sustainable, affordable and traceable choices” is a “positive development” for the oceans and the environment, said Masterton. Adding more plant-based seafood options to the market could help reduce the pressure on some high-demand fish species, she added.

Many herbal options on the market list ingredients that include seaweed, peas, or beans. Good Catch, a plant-based seafood startup, for example, uses peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, broad beans and white beans in its products, which include fish fingers, fish fillets, fish burgers, crab cakes and fish cakes.

Good Catch recently finalized a funding round that raised $ 26.35 million with investments from companies such as Louis Dreyfus Company, Unovis Asset Management and Big Idea Ventures. “The only truly sustainable seafood is seafood that allows the fish to stay in the ocean,” Chad Sarno, co-founder and culinary director of Good Catch, told CNN Business.

Demand for fake fish is increasing

Thai Union Group, one of the largest suppliers of canned tuna in the world, owns a number of brands of tuna, including Chicken of the Sea, which sold its first can in the United States in 1930. Thai Union focuses now on plant-based seafood, according to the company’s website. Earlier this year, it launched plant-based seafood into the Thai market, with offerings that included crab balls, crab meat, and fish nuggets.

OmniFoods, a Hong Kong startup known for its fake ‘OmniPork’ pork product, is also getting into the plant-based seafood trend, launch of a new line of products that include alternatives to fish fillets, fish burgers and pieces of tuna.

Nestlé is also focusing on seafood options, particularly in Europe. In August, the company launched Vuna, a vegan alternative to tuna. “The demand for products of plant origin is really growing strongly in Europe, but also elsewhere”, a said the Nestlé spokesperson. The company has been growing in the sector over the past year and is looking to bring new products to market quickly; Vuna, for example, was developed in about nine months, the spokesperson added.

Seaweed-based shrimps

In September 2019, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods invested in New Wave Foods, a plant-based fish company that sells seaweed-based shrimp.

“About 90% of shrimp in the United States is imported and more than half comes from shrimp farms that contaminate and pollute our oceans,” Michelle Wolf, co-founder of New Wave Foods, told CNN Business. Wolf and his team got creative and created a shrimp alternative from plant-based ingredients like seaweed extract, mung bean protein and sunflower oil.

While Wolf wants people to incorporate alternative seafood options into their lifestyles, she doesn’t expect consumers to completely change their diets and replace traditional seafood with options based on seafood. plants. “Even if it’s once a week, these small changes can build up in a population and have positive impacts on public health and our environment in general,” she said.

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