Dutch nutrition specialist DSM offers a broad range of ingredient solutions for meat and dairy alternatives, which is constantly being expanded to serve the latest trends in the market. The company recently launched an innovative new range of products to enable food manufacturers to ensure authentic taste and texture for producers of fish alternatives.
We spoke with Gilbert Verschelling, the Director Business Development & Innovation at DSM, who told us about the new product line and offered his insight into the market for plant-based fish alternatives.
What have been the key driving factors behind the plant-based seafood market’s rise to prominence?
While the market is still in its infancy, the plant-based seafood space is showing exciting growth potential. A recent report found that 28% of consumers across nine countries in Europe say they recently consumed fish alternatives. This growth is driven largely by the exponential rise in people adopting flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.
Vegan fish alternatives are also gaining traction as an appealing option for consumers who want great taste and texture, without compromising their sustainability values. According to research, 84% of people in the UK say that being environmentally friendly is important to them. At the same time, plant-based seafood also presents an opportunity for eco-conscious consumers and the food and beverage industry alike to play a role in protecting the planet’s limited fish resources – figures show that 33% of fish stocks are currently overfished.
What are the main challenges when it comes to creating plant-based seafood products?
The outlook for the plant-based seafood market is promising, but there are formulation challenges that have, so far, proven difficult to overcome for many producers. Emulating the tender, flaky texture of fish in plant-based alternatives, for example, can be complex. Plus, plant-based protein bases often impart undesirable flavor off-notes that are difficult to mask, especially when developing mild fish flavors in vegan and vegetarian applications. Enriching the taste and mouthfeel of plant-based fish products without increasing sodium levels is also a growing priority, amid rising concerns about high salt levels in consumers’ diets.
In addition, it can be difficult to develop plant-based fish alternatives that address increasingly diverse consumer preferences. For instance, most commercially available seafood flavors currently on the market require the processing of fish or crustaceans, which means that products do not meet plant-based criteria. Producers can also use top notes to enhance the fish flavor of plant-based alternatives, but while many are vegan, Kosher or Halal, they are rarely able to meet all of these requirements.
Where is the plant-based seafood market heading?
The plant-based seafood market is expected to accelerate quickly in the next few years. There are plenty of opportunities available for producers looking to be at the forefront of innovation; if plant-based fish alternatives claimed just 1% of the global plant-based market share, its value would be US$ 141 million.
How is DSM innovating in the plant-based seafood space?
DSM recently introduced its Maxavor® Fish YE solution, the first ingredient of its kind on the market. Derived from algal oil, the new flavor is vegan, 100% allergen-free and complies with Kosher and Halal certifications. This label-friendly innovation also helps producers overcome common formulation and positioning challenges to develop premium plant-based fish alternatives – like vegetarian fish nuggets and vegan fish sauce – with an authentic fish taste, texture and mouthfeel. With two distinct taste profiles available, producers can recreate the sensory properties of either rich and oily dark fish or fresh, light and fleshy white fish. Plus, as it is low in salt, the desired taste and texture can be achieved without elevating sodium content. The Maxavor® Fish YE solution can also help producers meet consumer demand for products that support more sustainable purchasing choices, and combat overfishing in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 ‘Life Below Water’.
Other DSM solutions designed for the plant-based fish alternatives space include GELLANEER™ gellan gum hydrocolloids, which delivers authentic, juicy texture in plant-based products, and Quali® vitamins and DSM Premix Solutions for enhancing nutritional value.
What makes DSM the best partner for brands in the plant-based seafood market?
DSM’s uniquely broad portfolio of plant-based solutions, combined with our market expertise and end-to-end expert services, puts us in the ideal position to support manufacturers in powering front of pack label claims and bringing great-tasting fish alternatives to market. As a purpose-led company committed to being at the forefront of innovation, we are excited to play our part in the growth of the fish alternatives market and support the production of popular plant- and fish-based products – from vegetarian fish nuggets and fish cakes in Europe and the US, to vegan fish sauce and fish broths– for customers and consumers worldwide.
We also welcome the opportunity to further support the development of seafood products that are both sustainably and responsibly sourced and fully traceable, as part of our recent partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – the global gold standard for certification and eco-labeling of seafood.
 EUROPEAN CONSUMER SURVEY ON PLANT-BASED FOODS, https://prowly-uploads.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/uploads/landing_page_image/image/265983/7215af9e9e6ba9b1279d555f919bb57a.pdf.
 Everything You Need To Know About Plant-Based Seafood, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariellasimke/2020/10/21/everything-you-need-to-know-about-plant-based-seafood/?sh=275ad7ab7655.
 Pure NPD, Drivers, milestones and challenges in plant-based fish development – and the innovators making waves, https://pure-npd.co.uk/articles/key-drivers-milestones-and-challenges-in-plant-based-fish-development/, accessed on 02.03.2021.
 Paper by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018.
 World Health Organization, salt reduction , https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/salt-reduction, accessed on 07.05.2020.
 The Good Food Institute, Opportunities in Alternative Seafood, June 2020.