The market for plant-based seafood alternatives is growing and new brands are bringing all sorts of alternatives to the game. Compared to the plant-based meat industry, there are still fewer options and innovations, but seafood brands are slowly catching up.
The alternative seafood market uses two innovative ways to create seafood: plant-based and cell-based.
Plant-based seafood alternatives use only plant ingredients to mimic the flavour, texture and nutritional properties of seafood. They use ingredients such as tomatoes to achieve a texture similar to tuna, beans to make sure there is enough protein, and algae for the fish flavour. Tofu wrapped in seaweed and fried in batter is used as an alternative to famous fish and chips.
Vegan alternatives are also suitable for consumers who are allergic to seafood but want to enjoy the taste.
Cell-based seafood is designed in a lab by using the cells of various animal species, so it’s not vegan. However, it doesn’t require animals to be killed. It’s also more environmentally friendly as scientists are creating fish and seafood in labs without the polluting effects of fish farming or wild fishing.
“The Holy Grail for any cultured animal tissue company – be it focused on beef or fish – is to make an agnostic platform to grow any type of tissue. But for now, other cellular aquaculture companies are much more heads-down on one type of seafood: shrimp for Shiok Meats, salmon for Wild Type, and tuna for Finless Foods,” says Catherine Lamb from The Spoon, a food tech news site.
It is also healthier because there is a guarantee that lab-made seafood doesn’t contain any plastic fibres. There is a risk that seafood contains plastic fibres because of the high plastic pollution in the seas.
However cell-based cultivation is an expensive process. Currently, it costs around $200 to make a lab-produced spicy salmon roll.
Consumption of seafood has doubled over the last 50 years according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). This poses a serious threat to our seas.
Overfishing is a consequence of trying to meet the high seafood demand. Companies are trying to catch as many fish as possible with large nets. These nets scrape the sea floors, which leads to accidental capture of endangered species such as dolphins and sea turtles.
These are all important factors for the growing demand for alternative seafood. Brands like Vegefarm, Quorn, Good Catch and Sophie’s Kitchen offer a variety of vegan seafood alternatives.
Vegefarm is the world’s largest company offering seafood substitutes. Their selection includes plant-based squid, shrimp, roasted eel, tuna, ribbon fish and battered cod. Its vegan shrimp received a taste innovation award during the 2019 edition of Anuga Food Fair in Germany.
Quorn launched a battered cod substitute in 2019 made from its signature mycoprotein. They also have a lemon pepper breaded version, as well as ‘’fishless fingers’’.
Good Catch, the US-based brand, uses ingredients including chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, and algae oil to provide vital omega-3 oils. They use a shearing technique to achieve the meat-like structure of tuna. They also offer crab cakes and whitefish patties.
‘’We strive to help preserve the oceans’ natural resources while providing plant-based protein options that have the rich flavours and flaky textures of fine seafood,’’ says Good Catch.
Sophie’s Kitchen based in California offers vegan shrimp and smoked salmon and tuna. Their key ingredients are yellow pea and konjac which is popular in Japanese cuisine. They also avoid the use of soy, gluten and GMO ingredients.
Most of the alternative seafood brands are currently limited to niche shops, restaurants, and online shops.
The alternative seafood market is still in its early days because it’s challenging to produce the authentic texture and flavour of seafood. We can expect more innovations in upcoming years.