Sophie’s Kitchen raises $ 5.6 million to expand plant-based seafood category

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The Sebastopol, Calif., Based company, which works with co-packers in the United States and Taiwan, is now present in the frozen aisle at chains such as Walmart, Wegmans and Sprouts, proof that seafood herbal have the potential to integrate into the general public. CEO Dr. Miles Woodruff told FoodNavigator-USA.

“The shrimp and crab patties took off this year, and wWe’ve also seen retailers change their herbal expansion in general, doubling or even tripling the products on the shelves and exploring herbal marketing.

In the future, he said, “Our priority is innovation – innovation in our research and development, our technology, our partnerships and our product portfolio through 2022.

“In addition, we are forming national and international relationships that will disrupt the supply chain in the herbal category.“said Woodruff, who uses peas (and sometimes rice) as their primary source of protein, but is exploring new options, including protein from microalgae.

Seaspiracy …

When asked if consumers expect plant-based seafood to be fortified with the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in seafood, did he declare : “Yes absolutely our products are moving in that direction, but it is essential that we make sure that they can withstand the cooking process and maintain their nutritional profiles before including them. “

While the plant-based seafood industry is tiny compared to the plant-based meat segment, the drivers of consumption are there, said Woodruff, who has joined. Sophie’s kitchenIn the summer of 2019, founder Eugene Wang traveled to Singapore to set up a food protein company made from microalgae.

“Popular documentaries like SeaspiracyHelp shed light on the vast environmental impact associated with consuming ocean wildlife, where previously the focus of the sustainability movement was more on land animals. “

COVID-19: Remote work, new customers, supply chain challenges

As for COVID-19, he said, “It has complicated international supply chains …[but] Positive points have emerged from the challenges over the past year and a half, including the opportunity to access talent pools around the world, giving us the chance to bring our research and development in-house and create a team of the best in the industry.

“It wouldn’t have been the case if we had tried to hire locally during the pandemic with travel restrictions and had not embraced the distant culture.

Additionally, consumers decided to try alternative sources due to the lack of access to traditional proteins during the pandemic. This request opened Sophie’s Kitchen to customers who would never have tried plant-based foods. previously.”

Photo credit: Sophie’s kitchen

Plant-based seafood: niche market or huge untapped opportunity?

Sophie Miles Woodruff's Kitchen
“At Sophie’s Kitchen, we believe in the same mission: saving lives and protecting the planet, one meal at a time. The best way to achieve this goal is to create plant-based foods that vegans and meat lovers crave while making our products accessible to consumers so they can join our mission of change as well. Dr Miles Woodruff, CEO, Sophie’s Kitchen

While plant-based seafood accounted for just $ 12 million in US retail sales in channels measured in 2020 according to the Good Food Institute, many players believe seafood represents an untapped opportunity. in an industry dominated by alternatives to beef, pork and chicken, GFI said. in a recent reportNoting that there are now at least 85 players (to our knowledge) around the world making seafood from plants, fermented microbes, and animal cells.

Good catchRecently opened a new plant in Ohio and entered into a joint venture with seafood company Bumble Bee Food; New Wave Foods has secured an investment from Tyson Foods; Atlantic Natural Foods Experiences Solid Growth in TUNO Canned Tuna Alternatives; Nestlé has entered the market in Europe with “Vuna”, an alternative to tuna; and Impossible Foods offers plant-based seafood In progress.

Birds Eye’s Green Cuisine, added UK Plant-Based Fish Fingers; Seara Alimentos, a subsidiary of Brazilian meat company JBS, has launched a line of plant-based products in Brazil, including fish sticks and cod; Cargill launched a plant-based scallop co-branded with Japanese food store chain Lawson; Thai seafood company Thai Union plans to introduce plant-based shrimp by the end of this year; and the Van Cleve Seafood Company has a plant-based spin-off company called The Plant Based Seafood Co (formerly Wild Skinny Clean).

While fish is considered healthier than, say, burgers and sausages, the list of seafood issues – from overfishing to contaminants, pollution, microplastics, fraud, mislabelling, illegal work practices, habitat damage and bycatch – is generating interest. into greener, cleaner and gentler alternatives, said GFI.

Plant-based seafood merchandising

Right now, almost all plant-based seafood is sold in the frozen food aisle, noted GFI, who said a move to other parts of the store could result in the category. more visibility.

“There is little plant-based seafood in the refrigerated seafood aisle or seafood counter, where consumers buy conventional seafood.

“Going beyond frozen and shelf-stable products and moving out of the frozen vegetable section will increase the visibility of plant-based seafood and accelerate the growth of the category by attracting new consumers in the same way that the fact to place milk and herbal meat plants in the dairy and meat aisles.

Plant-based seafood formulation

sophies-Kitchen-crabcakes-sept-2021

According to a white paperFrom flavor and fragrance giant Givaudan in collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley, manufacturers’ top choice for plant-based fish is soy, Due to its high nutritional content, functional flexibility, established supply and resulting low cost, and favorable fiber structure which works well in the texturing process.

PeasIs the second most popular choice, offering an allergen-friendly alternative despite having a more difficult taste profile and a higher price tag.

CornIs also a popular protein source, with low cost, clean taste and good functionality, but with lower nutritional content and allergen issues.

Other protein choices include chickpeas, lentils, flax seeds, faba and navy bean. Vegetables such as jackfruit, carrot, tomato and aubergineAre innovatively used to successfully mimic the textural properties in alternatives to sushi and sliced ​​salmon or tuna. Seaweed and algaeare another option. The gelled properties of seaweed also closely match the texture of shrimp, while konjiac– when thickened and mixed with gum – also closely mimics the texture of shrimp and can also be applied to lobster, crab, shrimp and squid alternatives.

Vegetable seafood and texture

Mimicking the texture of fish is easier to achieve with a wet textured vegetable protein (DVT) than a dry one. While wet TVP is more difficult to shape than dry, flavors can be incorporated into it throughout the process, notes Givaudan.

TVP is well suited to processed fish products such as breaded fillets and fish fingers, but does not recreate the flaky texture of whole fish. This is still the biggest challenge for alternatives to fish and still needs to be perfected. ”

Interested in alternatives to seafood?

Join Chad Sarno at Good Catch, Michele Wolf at New Wave Foods, Anne Palermo at Aqua Cultured Foods and David Benzanquen at Mission Plant in our webinar, What’s next for seafood alternatives?(Third part of FoodNavigator-USA October TV Series), To explore where the market is going next.

Article image - Seafood Alt


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