Is Vegan Seafood the Next Plant-Based Innovation?

Now that we have good quality plant-based burgers firmly in hand, several companies are close to cracking the code on producing delicious and realistic vegan seafood.

Lately it seems like all the vegan food news centers around the glories of the Impossible Burger and the customer demand that’s caused shortages of the Beyond Burger. Many of us, though, really miss tuna salad and shrimp lo mein. Will we ever see “veganized” versions of seafood-based dishes?

That day may be much closer than you think. Several companies are racing to get vegan seafood onto grocery store shelves and into restaurants. And it couldn’t come at a better time.

Seafood is the largest traded food commodity in the world. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that 85 percent of marine fish stocks are either fully exploited or overfished.

Humans kill an estimated 150 billion fish for food every year. Compare that to the 60 billion land animals we kill annually to eat. That’s an incredible number of fish, and that estimate doesn’t even include the billions of fish we catch illegally or accidentally. Twenty-seven percent of fish caught end up as “spoilage” — they’re thrown away because they can’t be used.

So how do we stop this incessant and ecologically problematic taking of fish? One answer may be development of plant-based fish and shellfish for consumption. A number of start-ups now vie for front-runner status for vegan seafood production.

Sophie’s Kitchen

Photo credit: Sophie's Kitchen

Photo credit: Sophie’s Kitchen

Sophie’s Kitchen has been in stores since 2011 with its soy- and gluten-free Vegan Toona. It’s made from the konjac root and comes in sea salt and black pepper flavors. This tuna alternative is stocked right next to real fish at stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts and others.

Placing it there was a smart move — sales exploded by 72 percent between the first quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, when Vegan Toona was shelved next to canned tuna.  In addition to this product, Sophie’s Kitchen makes plant-based crab cakes, fish fillets, shrimp, smoked salmon, seafood jambalaya and more.

Founder Eugene Wang wants Sophie’s Kitchen to develop a reputation as a “clean-label brand,” meaning that it’s made with natural, familiar ingredients – one that consumers can understand and recognize with they read the label.

Good Catch Foods

Photo credit: Good Catch Foods

Photo credit: Good Catch Foods

Good Catch Foods expects to hit Whole Foods markets before 2018 ends with a whole line of vegan shelf-stable shredded tuna, fish-free burgers and plant-based crab cakes. Those foods use protein-rich ingredients like soy, lentils, peas, chickpeas, navy beans and fava beans — not to mention sea algae oil for realistic flavor. They’re dairy-free, gluten-free and GMO-free to boot.

Founded in 2016, the company just obtained $8.7 million in Series A funding from investors like New Crop Capital, Thrive Market, Fresh, PHW Group, Stray Dog Capital, VegInvest and others. While they’re starting with Whole Foods, Good Catch Foods expects to branch out exponentially so its seafood offerings can be found everywhere.

“In the case of our seafood, it better taste like tuna fish, it better be priced like tuna fish, it better be as available as tuna fish, and I better know where to get it,” Chris Kerr, Good Catch co-founder, told Fast Company.

Ocean Hugger Foods

Photo credit: Ocean Hugger Foods

Photo credit: Ocean Hugger Foods

New York’s Ocean Hugger Foods is the place to get sushi-quality vegan “tuna.” It’s called Ahimi, and it’s touted as the world’s first plant-based alternative to raw tuna. It’s suitable for dishes like ceviche, poke, tartare, crudo — and, of course, sushi.

You can’t buy this product and take it home, though. You need to find one of the 50 nationwide Whole Foods that carries it and ask for your sushi to be made with it.

“We decided to sell it this way because most consumers don’t make raw fish dishes at home,” Ocean Hugger CEO David Benzaquen told Forbes. “Instead, most people buy these dishes ready-made in restaurants. By selling it to chefs to make at their restaurants we’re bypassing having to teach consumers to make raw fish dishes and then to also make them plant-based.”

Each of these companies, and others, are hoping the current frenzy for plant-based meat alternatives will extend to tasty faux fish and shellfish. If it’s delicious, sustainably made, easy to find and not too pricey, there’s little doubt consumers will welcome these foods with open arms.

Convincing vegan tuna salad, I’m waiting for you. Hurry up, will you?

Photo Credit: Kyle Head/Unsplash

87 comments

Martin H
Martin H2 days ago

I'd like to give it a try.

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Justin M
Justin M28 days ago

Thanks

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Ingrid A
Ingrid A28 days ago

thanks

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Joemar K
Joemar Kabout a month ago

Thanks

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Renata B
Renata Babout a month ago

By now you can find any animal food in non-animal version, even caviar! And this better for everyone, our health (our conscience: this is for those who have one); for the animal and the planet.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN habout a month ago

tyfs

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Janis K
Janis K1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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silja salonen
silja salonen1 months ago

thank you! thank you! thank you!

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beba h
beba h1 months ago

There will be so many delicious substitutes for meat that there will be no reason to eat meat any more.

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Carole R
Carole R1 months ago

Interesting.

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