If you can’t beat them, then it might be time to join them. I think more and more seafood companies are coming to this conclusion regarding the emergence of plant-based and lab-grown seafood alternatives.
On Wednesday, Good Catch, a plant-based seafood products brand owned by Gathered Foods, closed a $32 million (€28.6 million) funding round that included General Mills as one of the investors. The Series B funding pushed the total investment in the company so far to over $45 million (€40 million).
The plant-based food sector in the United States is now worth a reported $4.5 billion (€4 billion) and is said to be growing faster than any other food category.
I’m pretty sure lots of seafood companies are watching this category growth and are thinking maybe it is time to be part of it, rather than shunning it or watching it steal market share. It wouldn’t be much of a reach for known seafood brands such as Gortons or Young’s or even smaller brands to lend their brand name to a plant-based seafood line extension.
In the past, I have complained that the marketing of these imitation seafood products is misleading because many of them stress the seafood aspect of the product in a way I think camouflages its plant-based nature. But as plant-based foods rapidly become part of the mainstream food flow, companies are clearly becoming more comfortable highlighting these product’s plant-based pedigrees.
Already, some seafood companies are jumping aboard.
"I don't think it's ever worked out for anybody to resist a movement or trend," you need to get on board with it," Monica Van Cleve-Talbert, co-owner of Van Cleve Seafood, told IntraFish in October. The company's new superfood line of products is called "Wild.Skinny.Clean." The new line of meal-kit-style frozen products includes wild-caught haddock from Maine with a "super-food topped" coating, as well as plant-based crab and pink shrimp that uses soy- and corn-free ingredients.
What's more, 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, is developing a range of seafood products, and settled on fish sticks, nuggets and burgers for the initial launch.
In the report, “The Rise of Alternative Proteins: A market overview,” Rabobank analysts say the growth in the alternative protein space is being driven by several powerful forces: sustainability, animal welfare, health and wellness, un
iqueness and convenience.
The world’s largest seafood restaurant chain, Red Lobster, has even looked into plant-based seafood, but its CEO remains unconvinced. “Yes, we have looked into plant-based seafood — it was terrible. And no, we’re not introducing it,” Red Lobster CEO Kim Lopdrup said in an interview with CNBC in August.
From the way it looks, plant-based and lab-grown alternatives to animal proteins are not going away, and they are resonating strongly with consumers.
For seafood, which already controls such a small amount of the protein market share, the future might lie in fish from the sea, but also the soil.
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