The former top executive at Dutch shrimp giant Klaas Puul and Mowi Consumer Products is moving into the fast-moving plant-based seafood sector.
Maiko van der Meer, who served as CEO at Mowi Consumer Products (then Marine Harvest) for four years, CEO of Klaas Puul following that, and a board member at Foppen and Milarex, said the new company, Novish, officially launched this week.
Van der Meer told IntraFish he began working on the project two years ago, after a stint with a major European meat producer where, among other projects, he oversaw plant-based meat.
Van der Meer and his partners, food technologists Paul Dendulk and Katja Busser, spent a lot of time in the lab working on manufacturing techniques and flavorings, developing recipes for a range of seafood products, and settled on fish sticks, nuggets and burgers for the initial launch.
'Not a competitor'
Van der Meer's time with Mowi and Klaas Puul instilled in him "a love for the seafood industry," he said.
"So it's important to me that this new category is not viewed as a competitor to seafood," he said. "It's a complementary product, and will lift the entire category with new consumers."
Van der Meer said it's likely that most protein suppliers -- including seafood -- will embrace plant-based alternatives as part of their portfolio.
"It's more and more being integrated into the animal protein offering," he said.
Recent examples include fast food chains' test launches of plant-based nuggets, which quickly outshined their chicken counterparts, van der Meer said.
But studies have shown that rather than acting as a straight substitute, plant-based products tend to attract flexitarians and other groups that are looking to increase protein intake -- not simply replace one option for another, he noted.
Testing the water
Novish has other products developed that will target retail under the Novish brand, including tuna and salmon items, but the company will spend the next year testing the market for its initial line.
The company also has recipes that include seaweed and algae, but is carefully studying EU regulations to ensure that the use of those ingredients meets stringent rules surrounding them.
Van der Meer and his partners' ambitions are modest, for now. The company is working with two contract manufacturers in the Netherlands, and based on the next year, it will look at investing into its own facilities.
The team is currently self-financing the initial launch, but is talking with investors, lenders and partners about additional capital.
"It all depends on how people react," said van der Meer.