Riding the rising tide of plant-based seafood

According to SPINS data compiled for PBFA and GFI, the U.S. plant-based seafood market may be quite small, compared to traditional seafood sales, which amount to more than tens of billions of dollars. dollars, with retail sales of $13.9 million in 2021, but it is growing strongly (+14%).

Globally, the segment is expected to grow even faster with a recent Fact MR report predicting a compound annual growth rate of 28% from 2021 to 2031 to eventually represent a $1.3 billion industry.

This growth is attracting significant investment, over $70 million in the first half of 2021, equal to the past two years combined, which in turn is driving innovation that will mimic the flavors, textures and appearance of fruit. from the sea with whole vegetables to proprietary technologies that also add desirable nutritional qualities.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, category experts and industry players gathered at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim earlier this month discuss the full potential of plant-based seafood, from what driving consumer – and investor – interest in the segment, and the challenges innovators will need to overcome to drive repeat trials and purchases.

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Alternative seafood is small but mighty

While the plant-based seafood industry currently lags the meat alternatives category in terms of size, sales and variety of options, Ashley Kindle, Meat Category Manager and savory, plant-based cheeses at Givaudan Flavors, predicts it will grow much faster than meat and chicken alternatives, partly because they’ve paved the way and done some of the heavy lifting around educating consumers and demand creation.

“In the plant-based seafood space, we’re going to see a rapid increase, just like we did in the plant-based meat space. Consumers really want a lot of variety of species. They want a variety of applications. They also want a variety of dishes. So let’s see the trend line that was in plant meat [accelerate] for seafood of plant origin,she says.

In support, she noted, 81% of consumers have tried plant-based seafood in the past year, which is higher than previous years, and 44% of consumers who have tried say they like it or like it.

“There really is an opportunity here for space for plant-based seafood,”she says.

Focus first on ethics

Kindle noted that many of the drivers of consumer interest in plant-based seafood are the same as alternatives to beef, pork, and poultry, but may be more strongly driven by concerns ethical and environmental, which will slightly modify the marketing roadmap.

“We see that ethical concerns, environmental concerns are really those primary concerns. So things like overfishing our oceans, polluting our streams, our oceans and our waterways. And then climate change and the energy it really takes to overfish…. So all of these things are really playing a big role in this acceleration of plant-based seafood,”said Kindle.

With that in mind, she recommends companies leverage environmental messaging in their branding and marketing.

Health and wellness concerns are a secondary factor, with a focus on allergies, mercury levels and the growing contamination of microplastics in our oceans. Additionally, Kindle said, consumers want to see plant-based options that deliver nutrition — including protein-rich and healthy fats, which seafood is well-known for.

Good Catch offers a wide range that ticks all the boxes

As a forerunner in the plant-based seafood segment, Gathered Foods strives to check each of these boxes with vegan fish brand Good Catch, which CEO Christine Mei explains was founded with mission to raise awareness, reduce harm and preserve the environment, while simultaneously providing a great dining experience.

Although the company is mission-based, Mei says Good Catch also has an obligation as a category pioneer to deliver taste, experience and nutrition so that consumers who are new to the segment keep coming back.

“We appreciate this privilege of being at the forefront”,and taking three key elements seriously to engage consumers and keep them coming back, including texture, taste and functional nutrition, she said.

Good Catch is able to meet all three of these requirements with its proprietary blend of six legumes of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, fava beans and white beans, which when combined create a light, flaky texture and provide a healthy dose of vegetable proteins.

The base is also versatile, allowing Good Catch to offer a wide variety of seafood options, which Givaudan’s Kindle says will be key to driving long-term consumer engagement and growth. the category.

Like many other space players, Mei said Good Catch started with tuna, but quickly expanded to offer stable, frozen alternatives to other popular seafood, including crab and jellyfish. Thai fish cakes, a range of breaded products and the launch earlier this year of a salmon burger.

The strategy is paying off for Good Catch, which Mei says is experiencing rapid growth in retail and foodservice, with sales likely to double this year as the company expands into new countries and expands. its catering business.

Current Foods Recreates Whole Muscle Texture in Fish Fillets

Industry newcomer Current Foods is also carefully balancing taste, texture and nutrition as it attempts to lure consumers into the plant-based seafood segment with its recently launched take on smoked salmon and filleted and ready-to-eat sushi-grade plant-based tuna. cubes and fillets.

CEO and Co-Founder Jacek Prus says Current Foods has been able to recreate the soft, muscular mouthfeel of raw fish by skipping the high-moisture extrusion some players use to create their seafood. of plants, and able to provide nutrition by mixing pea protein and algae oil with other ingredients.

While silent on the company’s proprietary production techniques, he said the company does not use high humidity extrusion, which he says applies a lot of heat and pressure to create slightly more resistant products and leaning towards a more cooked format.

“Ours is a little softer in that regard so we can create a better mouthfeel that has high humidity and more of a whole muscle feel,”he said.

The company relies on a blend of pea protein, bamboo fiber and hard-to-work algae oil to deliver the nutritional profile consumers want.

Beyond taste and nutrition, driving down the price of plant-based seafood will be a major challenge for the plant-based seafood industry, which is another reason Current Foods s is primarily focused on ready-to-eat salmon and tuna.

The company is also continuing to partner with established seafood companies to further reduce costs while mitigating supply chain challenges and strengthening margins for all players.

An all-vegetable approach

While Current Foods and Good Catch focus on nutrition through protein and healthy fats, Canadian start-up Save Da Sea takes a different approach by offering a plant-based smoked salmon and tuna salad that is minimally processed and made from whole foods, as CEO and Founder Aki Kaltenback explained.

“Our whole thing is about simple ingredients and whole foods where we have to find vegetables that can mimic the analogue we’re breeding,”she says.

For example, she uses thin strips of marinated orange carrots to recreate smoked salmon, and chopped jackfruit mixed with vegan mayonnaise, lemon and other spices to create a tuna salad.

She thinks the company’s focus on minimal processing will appeal to consumers looking for options they can eat every day without compromising their health or feeling guilty.

As these three companies illustrate, the plant-based seafood segment may be young and small, but it already offers a wide range of options that meet different nutritional needs, flavor preferences and dining occasions. consumer use.

At the same time, the rapid growth in sales and investment data suggests that there is still plenty of interest and space in the segment for newcomers to jump in and catch this wave before it hits. be too late.

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