Interviews

Future Ocean Foods: “We See Innovation and Entrepreneurship as Main Drivers of Meaningful Change for Our Oceans”

Future Ocean Foods (FOF) was launched in November 2023 by Marissa Bronfman, supporting and accelerating the alternative seafood industry worldwide.

The organization currently represents a coalition of 36 pioneering companies from 14 countries, encompassing a range of technologies including plant-based, fermentation, and cultivated food and technology, united in a mission to promote food security, human health, environmental sustainability, and ocean conservation.

It was a pleasure to catch up again with Marissa, who outlines some of the key areas in which FOF is working to create meaningful change. Change that we urgently need as our population increases to a catastrophic number of human beings while the population of our oceans hits crisis point – some estimates say there will be no more fish in the seas by 2048. Action is beyond imperative.

Since the launch of Future Ocean Foods in November, what are the key developments achieved by the association?
We’ve created an incredible global community of company founders and ecosystem partners. The level of trust, support, friendship, collaboration and knowledge-sharing is so wonderful to see. Given the tough economic and fundraising climates, this community is more important now than ever.

“We are always keen to interact and work with the seafood industry to build the future of food”

I’m thrilled we were given the opportunity to contribute to the EU Parliamentary hearing on fish denominations last November, especially as it had only been two weeks since we formally launched. We have a number of members throughout Europe, so helping ensure alt seafood companies have a smooth labeling and regulatory path to commercialization and scale-up there is very important to the association.

Alt proteins could help to sustainably scale up the seafood industry
© Bluu Seafood

Last month, also in Europe, our partner GFI presented on the state of alt seafood and Future Ocean Foods at Fish International, a very large and mostly conventional seafood event in Germany. Original member Bettaf!sh had a booth there with its plant-based seafood offerings and Dr. Sebastian Rakers, co-founder and co-CEO of new member company Bluu Seafood, spoke on a panel. We are always keen to interact and work with the seafood industry to build the future of food. ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’, as we say.

We’ve identified key areas where we see the association being able to make measurable impact for the sector worldwide and are currently in the process of securing research partners for what we believe will be landmark global studies. These papers will help alt-seafood companies, investors, ecosystem players, and even the conventional seafood industry, accelerate the future of seafood across plant-based, fermentation and cultivated, in a way that supports ocean health, conservation and regeneration.

Future Ocean Foods is preparing to welcome some new members to the association. Are you able to share some of those with us?
We launched in November 2023 with 36 members in 14 countries and received an immense amount of interest from companies around the world who were keen to join us. I’m thrilled about all our new members and we’ll be announcing them soon. Happy to share that cultivated seafood company Bluu Seafood of Germany is one of our new members. Forsea Foods and Steakholder Foods, both from Israel, are new members, as are women-owned Upstream Foods (Netherlands) and Liven Proteins (Canada).

forsea foods cultivated eel used in a nigiri
© Forsea Foods

Can you discuss the objectives of the collaboration with Sustainable Ocean Alliance and how it aligns with the association’s goals?
When I was building Future Ocean Foods, it was very important to me that we never try to reinvent the wheel – that we partner with outstanding mission-oriented organizations in the alt protein, blue economy and oceans spaces, who would support our efforts to accelerate the alternative seafood industry. I’m proud that Sustainable Ocean Alliance is our newest partner, joining The Good Food Institute, ProVeg International, and the Global Organization for EPA + DHA (GOED), as Future Ocean Foods partners.

“We’ve identified key areas where we see the association being able to make measurable impact for the sector worldwide”

Both Future Ocean Foods and Sustainable Ocean Alliance share a mission to support entrepreneurs as they develop for-profit businesses that positively impact people and planet. We see innovation and entrepreneurship as main drivers of meaningful change for our oceans and the sentient beings found within and around them. SOA’s venture arm has invested in a number of our FOF members and I’m proud to be on the expert committee for their 2024 Ocean Challenge. We are both woman-founded organizations and I have great respect and admiration for what SOA Founder Daniela has and continues to build. Stay tuned for more from FOF x SOA!

SOA and FoF announce partnership
SOA X FOF

Youve mentioned that the term ‘alternative’ seafood might be problematic. What are your thoughts, and is there an effort to rebrand or redefine this terminology within the industry?
It’s absolutely problematic and something that many of our members are keen to redefine. We need to develop a new language. The word alternative is vague and ambiguous, it means different things to different stakeholders.

“We need to develop a new language”

The word “alternative” tends to position the thing as secondary, whereas in reality, alt seafood often goes back to basics. For example, many people think they must eat seafood to get omegas. There’s far more awareness among people that omega-3s are necessary for optimal health and wellness. What most people still don’t know is that fish don’t produce omegas, they get theirs from eating algae and hence, humans can too.

How do you perceive the current regulatory environment for alternative seafood, particularly in terms of labeling and product classification?
We are thrilled that FOF member Revo Foods had the lawsuit built against them thrown out by Austrian courts, as it was indeed baseless. I hope that’s a signal to traditional industry that alt seafood is not only here but growing rapidly. The argument that consumers are confused by what is, in fact, very clear labelling, is simply manufactured to try and slow down the industry.

Revo Foods salmon alternative
© Revo Foods

I hope that by being newer and still more niche, alt seafood can avoid many of the pitfalls that plagued alt meat and alt dairy in this regard. We have the opportunity to learn from and leapfrog many of the things that happened (and unfortunately are still happening) in adjacent industries, from a regulatory and labeling perspective.

Recent news that BlueNalu has become the first cultivated seafood company to join the National Fisheries Institute is hugely encouraging. Canadian FOF member Smallfood, a microalgae fermentation company, holds Nova Scotia’s only aquaculture license for single-cell marine algae. There is growing awareness in the conventional seafood industry that they must diversify their offerings.

Given the rapid growth of the alt-seafood sector, what trends are you observing in terms of product development and consumer demand?
It’s very exciting to see more and more seafood species being developed as analogs, like gorgeous scallops made through fermentation by Aqua Cultured Foods and most recently, octopus, made with mycoprotein by Revo Foods (Austria).

One of the things that originally drew me to the alt seafood space was the vast number of seafood species that must be developed and the opportunity to satisfy global protein demands and diets; to get away from the American burger and nugget.

Aqua Cultured Foods scallops
© Aqua Cultured Foods

I see this trend continuing as we work to feed 10 billion by 2050 and we are going to see more and more developments with algae and fungi. FOF member Koralo, for example, has a patent pending co-fermentation technology using both microalgae and mycelium, and recently debuted its whitefish in restaurants across South Korea.

“…we are going to see more and more developments with algae and fungi”

In recent years we’ve seen some great improvements in taste and texture of alt seafood, now, there is a strong emphasis on equal or superior nutrition. Investors, in particular, want to see exceptional analogs that can compete with their conventional counterparts. Conventional seafood still enjoys a “health halo”; consumers continue to think that seafood is the healthy, clean protein choice.

Consumer awareness about the realities of traditional seafood is still lagging behind the level of health and sustainability awareness consumers now have around meat and dairy. Many alt seafood companies will need to deliver products with equal or superior protein and omegas. We have a number of companies in Future Ocean Foods that are focused on omegas, and have members with alt seafood products that meet – and sometimes exceed – the protein and omega content found in the seafood species they’ve recreated. All without microplastics, antibiotics, bycatch or animal cruelty. The future!

Find further information at https://www.futureoceanfoods.org/




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