The Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods Fake Fishes Surface
Fake fish is the next big thing in alternative proteins.
Alternative meat has grown in popularity in recent years as consumers have started to change their diets for a variety of reasons, ranging from concerns about climate change and sustainability to animal welfare and personal health benefits.
This has led to a proliferation of products from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat in grocery stores and restaurants, while traditional meat companies like Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Hormel are launching new entrants into the category.
Retail sales of plant-based foods in the United States grew 27% in 2020, bringing the total market to around $ 7 billion, according to data from the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA) and The Good Food Institute (GFI). The global market is expected to reach $ 450 billion by 2040, according to consulting firm Kearney, which would represent about a quarter of the larger $ 1.8 trillion meat market.
the herbal products market was largely driven by fake milk and meat, which account for 35% and 20% of total category sales, respectively, according to GFI. Sales of plant-based meat increased 45% to $ 1.4 billion in 2020, while sales of plant-based milk rose 20% to $ 2.5 billion.
In contrast, the market for plant-based fish has been slower to develop. While sales in the United States grew 23% in 2020, they were only $ 12 million, according to GFI and PBFA. This represents 0.1% of the entire US seafood market, compared to plant-based meat sales accounting for 1.4% of US meat sales.
“Conventional seafood really has a halo of health around it; they are considered a very healthy food that doctors often tell patients to eat more, ”said Marika Azoff, corporate engagement specialist at GFI, of why alternative fish products may have fallen behind. “The environmental impacts are not as straightforward as they are with beef and dairy – they are a bit more complex and a bit more difficult for the general public to understand.”
Invest in the fake fish
However, several companies are looking to change that in an attempt to take a share of the US seafood market of over $ 15 billion.
According to GFI, 83 companies around the world were producing alternative seafood as of June 2021, of which 65 focused on plant-based products. By comparison, there were only 29 companies producing alternative seafood in 2017.
In 2020, more than $ 80 million was invested in alternative seafood companies, four times the amount invested in 2019, according to GFI.
Yellowtail amberjack made from BlueNalu cells.
Gathered Foods, which produces the plant-based seafood brand Good Catch, raised a $ 32 million Series B funding round in January 2020 from investors including Lightlife Foods parent company Greenleaf Foods and 301 Inc., the venture capital arm of General mills.
BlueNalu, which focuses on cultured seafood or fish produced directly from cells, raised $ 60 million in convertible note financing in January 2021, a record-breaking deal for an alternative seafood company.
To date, the two giants of alternative meat products have not yet entered alternative fish. Impossible Foods said in 2019 that it is working on a plant-based fish recipe, but it has yet to release any products. Beyond Meat has previously said it focuses on beef, poultry and pork.
“There’s no reason that alternative seafood can’t or won’t catch up with other types of alternative proteins,” Azoff said. “There is no dominant company in plant-based seafood like the meat and dairy categories did, but we see potential for that to change soon.”
Traditional seafood companies are also investing in alternative fish.
In September 2020, Nestlé launched Vuna, a plant-based tuna alternative which is the company’s first foray into plant-based seafood, citing statistics that say 90% of global fish stocks are now exhausted or near exhaustion.
Thai Union Group, which owns brands like Chicken of the Sea, has announced that it will launch a plant-based shrimp product by the end of this year, joining its other plant-based fish and crab products. already available.
Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tyson Foods, invested in plant-based shellfish company New Wave Foods in September 2019 and joined its $ 18 million Series A funding round that closed in January. Bumble Bee Foods signed a joint venture with Good Catch in March 2020.
Growing concerns for the fishing industry
Van Cleve Seafood Company, based in Virginia, which has sold traditional seafood for more than 20 years, has started producing only plant-based seafood under the label The Plant Based Seafood Co., citing problems with the fishing industry such as child labor, overfishing and mislabelling. .
“We wanted to do something about it, and we figured if it wasn’t us, then who?” CEO of Plant Based Seafood Co. Monica Talbert CNBC’s Kate Rogers told CNBC. “That’s when we made the decision, we were going to do something that would create a change.”
The Plant Based Seafood Co. offers products such as crab cakes made from artichokes, scallops and prawns made from starch from plant roots, all of which are sold online.
Concerns about the fishing industry, further underscored in Netflix’s recent documentary “Seaspriacy” which calls for an end to fish consumption, are seen as a factor leading consumers to turn to plant-based products. . A poll of 2,500 Americans from Kelton Global found that reducing plastic waste in the ocean, saving ocean habitats and reducing damage to marine animals are reasons consumers buy fish based plants rather than wild fish.
Gavin Gibbons, vice president of communications at the National Fisheries Institute, a trade group representing the fishing industry, said the organization and its member companies view herbal products as “a very likely part of the future of food for a growing planet “.
“They are technologically impressive and can and should be able to coexist with real seafood, as long as they are labeled accurately,” Gibbons said, noting that some of NFI’s member companies have invested in alternative seafood. .
However, Gibbons said, portraying alternative seafood as either nutritionally superior to real fish or better for sustainability reasons would be wrong in his opinion.
“USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans Emphasizes Consumers Are Not Eating Enough Seafood and It is Without a Question the Healthiest Animal Protein on the Planet,” he said. declared. “Few public health professionals would recommend imitations of seafood over real ones. They might make this recommendation for other products but not for seafood. From this point of view, these plant-based amalgams are not really alternatives, they are just imitations. “
Gibbons said that 51% of seafood consumed by consumers is farmed and about 75% of commercially important marine fish stocks, as reported and monitored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, are fished at biologically sustainable levels.
“There is a lot of hyperbole associated with the empty ocean claims and if this is used to market knockoff products then it is spurious,” Gibbons said.
There is one big obstacle that could stand in the way of fake fish: the taste.
While 43% of respondents to this Kelton poll said they would consider purchasing alternative seafood in the future and that most-cited flavor is the most important factor in boosting consumption, 38% said that they expected not to like the taste of alternative fish and 27% said they expected to dislike the texture. Twenty-seven percent said they had never seen plant-based seafood in a grocery store.
“First and foremost, consumers will buy alternative seafood if it tastes good,” Azoff said.