by Lana Bandoim
Meat alternatives are growing in popularity as consumers demand more options. Now, plant-based fish is set to be the next vegan trend, and companies are responding with new products that mimic seafood.
Startups and large corporations are showing an interest in plant-based fish. Atlantic Natural Foods started offering TUNO, a fishless tuna alternative made from soy, yeast and sunflower extract, in 2018. Impossible Foods announced last year that it was working on plant-based fish, and Good Catch raised $32 million in financing this January for its plant-based seafood. Even Nestlé has revealed it wants to launch a vegan tuna salad.
Companies are reacting to what they are seeing in the seafood industry and the trend toward vegan alternatives. From concerns about the environment to fears about mercury, the fish industry has faced multiple challenges in recent years. The recent coronavirus outbreak has created additional pressures, including shortages of items in grocery stores. All of these factors have created a combination that is pushing consumers toward a dinner plate filled with plant-based fish instead of regular tuna.
"According to the United Nations, nearly 90% of the world's marine fish stocks are now fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, with fisheries subsidies playing an integral part. Keeping startling statistics such as this in mind, Good Catch believes that the only truly sustainable seafood is one that allows fish to remain in the ocean, undisturbed," Good Catch shared in a press release.
Currently, this is a gap in the food industry that companies can fill since plant-based seafood only makes up $9.5 million (1%) of the total plant-based meat dollar sales. Businesses struggling to capture consumers' attention and taste buds may want to pursue the alternative meat market because it has the potential to fuel growth long-term.
Consumers are asking for healthy alternatives, and plant-based products are at the top of their list. Plant-based fish are a safe, mercury-free alternative that still provides necessary protein. They also lessen the guilt that is associated with overfishing that comes with eating seafood.
"Plant-based seafood provides a host of environmental benefits, including alleviating pressures on rapidly depleting fisheries, providing relief to fragile ocean ecosystems, reducing the impact of fishing nets on the ocean plastic problem, and reducing production-related GHG emissions," Caroline Bushnell from the Good Food Institute said in a press release.
Another advantage that consumers and companies need to consider is the ability to make plant-based fish shelf-stable. The coronavirus outbreak has shown a need for healthy, affordable, nonperishable items that households can stockpile. Plant-based fish is a vegan trend that will not disappear soon.