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Tides Turn as World’s Biggest Tuna Processor Recognises That Future of Seafood is Plant-Based and Cell-Based

As much as one in five cans of tuna sold globally is canned by Thai Union, which operates under different brand names in various markets such as John West in the UK,  Petit Navire in France, Mareblu in Italy and Chicken of the Sea in the USA, raking in annual sales exceeding US$ 4.2 billion.

“Alternative proteins are an important innovative product that we aim to deliver to meet the needs of consumers” – Thiraphong Chansiri, CEO, Thai Union

The group announced yesterday it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with V Foods (Thailand) Co., Ltd., The Thai producer of More Meat plant-based protein and V Farm plant-based food. Under the MoU, the two companies will utilise  Thai Union’s manufacturing facilities for the production of both V Foods’ existing products and new products in future development.

Thai Union V Foods
Thiraphong Chansiri, CEO at Thai Union Group, and Apirak Kosayodhin, CEO of V Foods (Thailand), sign the MoU to collaborate on plant-based products

After years of continuous accusations of overfishing, slavery and child labor, Illegal fishing, price-fixing, and prolonged Greenpeace campaigns for its tuna sourcing and alleged environmental destruction, is the world leader in conventional seafood now realising that the future of its industry lies in plant-based and cell-based fish products?

Either way, the company clearly knows where the smart money lies:

  • In 2019 Thai Union announced it was taking part in a €10 million ($11 million) vegan ingredients initiative backed by the European Commission
  • In February 2021 the company revealed its plans to launch plant-based seafood products such as fish, shrimp, and crabs.
  • In March 2021 it launched OMG Meat, a plant-based protein in the Thai market “to meet surging demand in Asia for healthy, environmental-conscious and innovative protein products.”
Thai Union OMG Meat
©Thai Union
  • In April, Thai Union signed MOUs with cellular seafood specialist BlueNalu and Japan’s largest trading company Mitsubishi Corporation, to evaluate market development strategies for its cell-grown seafood in Asia, stating that the collaborations represent a shared interest in the commercialisation of cell-cultured seafood in Asia and a commitment to sustainable seafood solutions to meet the growing demand, with the United Nations projecting that by 2030 there will be a gap in the supply chain requiring 28 million tonnes of new seafood production.

Speaking of yesterday’s announcement, Thiraphong Chansiri, CEO of Thai Union commented: “At Thai Union, innovation is crucial in developing and growing our business, and alternative proteins are an important innovative product that we aim to deliver to meet the needs of consumers.

“We are pleased to start our journey with V Foods, whose vision on innovation and food is a great fit for our core values. We look forward to working with them.”

Thai Union V Foods
V Foods ©Thai Union

Apirak Kosayodhin, CEO at V Foods, said, “V Foods puts innovation at the heart of its business, starting from research and development to quality sourcing from the farmer network, in order to offer quality food to consumers who are more focused on their well-being, are environmentally-conscious and therefore looking at sustainable food. We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Thai Union on alternative proteins and ready-to-eat, plant-based food, and to drive growth in the Thai market while continuing to explore international markets.”

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