US-based cell-cultured seafood producer BlueNalu is partnering with multinational sushi restaurant operator Food & Life Companies (F&LC) to develop an alternative to bluefin tuna belly.

The foodservice giant operates brands such as Sushiro and Kyotaru, with over 1,000 restaurants across Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Mainland China.

The agreement focuses on developing a supply-chain solution for bluefin tuna and other sushi-grade products.

The companies plan to collaborate on product development and marketing, as well as support a regulatory framework to accelerate BlueNalu’s commercialization in Japan.

The companies will initially focus on the belly portion of bluefin tuna known as toro.

Bluefin tuna is a prized species in Japan, where an estimated 80 percent of global supply is consumed. It commands premium pricing for its texture and flavor.

“Cell-cultured seafood is a supply-chain solution that will have the taste, texture and nutrition that consumers expect, and will not be susceptible to environmental contaminants like mercury and microplastics," said BlueNalu CEO Lou Cooperhouse.

"By centering our initial efforts on the high-quality toro portion of bluefin tuna, we aim to demonstrate culinary excellence with the most prized portion of the most sought-after fish in the most iconic marketplace for seafood.”

“With the uncertainty of natural marine resources in the future, it is important that we secure a stable supply of seafood in a more sustainable manner,” said Koichi Mizutome, CEO of F&LC.

“We have already been promoting the use of farmed seafood as one of the ways to achieve this, but as seafood demand increases in the future, there will be increasing challenges with our global supply chain. Therefore, we are eager to incorporate BlueNalu’s cell-cultured seafood as we believe it is one of the most promising methods to help solve these issues," he said.

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The partnership with F&LC follows additional collaborations announced earlier by BlueNalu, including agreements with Pulmuone in South Korea, Sumitomo and Mitsubishi in Japan, Thai Union in Thailand and Nomad Foods in Europe.

BlueNalu’s business strategy is to partner with leading multinational companies on market research, regulatory affairs, product development, manufacturing and sales.