The plant-based industry is in rapid growth. As vegetarian and vegan options are getting closer in texture, the demand for plant-based meat alternatives has increased, and the trend is spreading into the seafood industry. Due to the complicity and variety of seafood, the development has been slower than for meat and pork alternatives, but now plant-based tuna, salmon, caviar, scallops, squid, crab, and shrimp are reaching the supermarket shelves using common ingredients like soy, seaweed, yeast, legumes, and various vegetable oils and starches.
Seafood and alternative proteins - A megatrend in the food industry
There is no doubt that the exploration of alternative protein in the food industry is a megatrend. As consumers are looking for healthier and more sustainable alternatives to traditional meat consumption, the appetite for seafood has grown. Since 1990, the demand for seafood has grown by more than 122 percent, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Seafood now covers 17% of animal protein consumed globally and the consumption will only grow further in coming years.
With a growing interest in seafood, the demand for plant-based alternatives has also increased. The tendency is confirmed when speaking to the Danish company Jens Møller Products ApS, whom FOSS met at Seafood Expo in Barcelona. Since 1994, Jens Møller Products ApS has produced plant-based fish roe based on seaweed called Cavi-art®. But specially the last 7 years the demand for their products increased exponentially and today Jens Møller Products ApS is the leading supplier of all caviar-related products in foodservice in Denmark, owning roughly 80% of the total caviar market shares.
According to Sales Director at Jens Møller Products ApS, Poul Jensen, the growing demand for their products originates from a very practical calculation. “Plant-based caviar is cheaper and has a much longer expiration date than natural fish eggs.” he says and explains “Normal caviar only lasts a few days after opening, but our plant-based product can last for months. Further on, we can accommodate a broader spectrum of dietaries, which has made our products a popular alternative in places with a high focus on food safety, in hospitals and public institutions.” Poul explains.
Plant-based seafood solutions are opening the market to new consumers
In opposition to plant-based meat that are often marketed as a replacement for pork and beef, plant-based seafood attracts consumers that would not otherwise consider eating seafood. For millions of people with seafood allergies, plant-based products present a great nutritional addition to their daily diet. Others prefer it due to its zero-mercery, concerns of micro plastic, a way to address overfishing and a general dislike of fish smell. With a much lower product cost, plant-based caviar attracts a wide range of consumers, helps create awareness about new ways of eating seafood as well as being a delicate addition in things like take-away sushi and fish plates for which natural caviar would be too expensive.
Since 2015, the demand for Cavi-art® has doubled and the demand for plant-based fish products has no sign of slowing down in the coming years. At the same time as finetuning the products to fit specific needs when used in sushi rolls etc., new products have been launched and soon a plant-based Cavi-art® shrimp alternative will reach the supermarket shelves. Poul Jensen explains “We see no signs of the market slowing down in the coming years, just the opposite.” he says concludingly “Last year we produced 900-ton Cavi-art®, this year we have planned to produce more than 1.000 ton, and we have ambitious plans for future expansions.”
In this sense, Jens Møller Products ApS follows a general trend in which plant-based tuna, salmon, caviar, scallops, squid, crab, and shrimp get increasing attention from existing and new groups of consumers and industries. As well as start-ups, a growing list of fish producers have joined the list of companies with plant-based fish alternatives in their repertoire. Global companies like Karvala, Handy Seafood, Thai Union, and Bumble Bee Food have all released vegan alternatives and lately, Greenland Seafood also joined the club, showcasing a range of frozen plant-based fish alternatives such as fish-free fingers, fish cakes and burgers at Seafood Expo in Barcelona this year.
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