Alternative seafood is the phrase on everyone’s lips right now – amid huge startup investments, tech innovations, and growing consumer demand. Certainly, fishless fish is a category to watch.
And it’s all very timely, too. Experts predict that the world’s oceans won’t be able to keep up with this demand, with over 90% of ‘fish stocks’ considered either over-fished or exploited close to the point of ‘unsustainability’.1 2
Fortunately, alt seafood brands can provide a tasty, sustainable, and profitable solution.
In its latest New Food Hub interview, ProVeg International talked with the co-founder of one such company, Food Squared – an innovative start-up focused on crafting plant-based shrimp.
Throughout the interview, co-founder Frankie Fox shared insights into the essential criteria for developing the product, and the potential for collaboration and innovation in this exciting space.
Starting with shrimp
The New Food Hub interview began with Fox uncovering the ‘why’ behind alt shrimp – and it is eye-opening.
“We decided to start with farmed shrimp,” Fox said, “because it is one of the most polluting foods on the planet – it uses the most fresh water, and it’s second only to beef in its CO2 emissions. So we couldn’t think of a better place to start.”
With alt shrimp still a young category in the alt seafood industry, it’s vital that the product makes a stamp on consumers. So, what criteria and product qualities were the most important to Food Squared during product development? And how do they ensure that the product appeals to consumers?
“We looked at the first generation of plant-based products,” Frankie said, “and researched into a lot of the consumer feedback. The key product criteria are texture, taste, price, and label.”
Frankie explained that with alternative seafood, texture is absolutely key. Food Squared doesn’t use extrusion technology, like many plant-based brands do. Instead, it uses an innovative patented technology that allows it to get a unique texture that has not previously been available to many brands.
But it’s not just about the technology; when replicating fish, it’s also about the ingredients and what nutrition they provide, alongside great texture.
“For plant protein,” Fox added, “most people who have tried to replicate the texture of shellfish have used starches such as konjac root, which gives a great texture, but it really lacks in protein. So, it’s not a healthy equivalent. We decided to work on making a great shellfish texture with plant protein, so we could keep the nutritional and protein levels up.”
Certainly, when it comes to fish products, nutrition is key, with one of the main consumer drivers for eating seafood being health – this motivation directly translates into alt seafood.
The future of alt seafood
The future of alternative seafood and shellfish, epitomized by innovators like Food Squared, holds great promise, and Fox is excited by the potential of the space.
“This is a really exciting category,” she said. “It is such a wide space – and businesses are only scratching the surface on sustainability and innovation. There can be a lot of players – I think we should all be supporting each other because it’s a massive category with a huge opportunity. And as I say, ‘high tide floats all boats’. So, you know, the more innovation, and the more we can support innovation, the better!”
As consumer demand for sustainable, healthy seafood alternatives rises, these ventures are poised to make waves. With a focus on taste, texture, and sustainability, they are steering the industry toward a brighter and more environmentally friendly future.
2 Fish farming and aquaculture, (2020). ProVeg International. Available at: https://proveg.com/5-pros/animals/fish-fishing-and-fish-farming-in-aquacultures/. Accessed 2023-08-24.