Alt-seafood company Jinka recently revealed what may be the first pre-cooked plant-based calamari on the retail market.
Jinka quietly previewed the novel appetizer at a recent trade show, which appears to be sold as a perishable frozen product. According to the packaging, Jinka’s tempura-battered rings offer the same taste and texture as squid calamari, along with protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
The product can be eaten in snack or appetizer form, or as the centerpiece of a meal. While labeled Non-GMO, the ingredients have not yet been specified. Pending an official launch date, Jinka’s calamari would join the brand’s current line of plant-based tuna spreads and crab cakes.
The quest for calamari
Though plant-based alternatives to fish and crabs are accelerating, specialized seafood delicacies like squid and lobster remain a largely untapped market segment. In October, Chicago-based startup Aqua Culture received record-setting funding to create fungi-based versions of an array of premium seafood products, including shrimp, scallops and calamari.
On the retail front, Lily’s Vegan Pantry sells a frozen “Imitation Squid” online, while Nature’s Charm recently introduced canned “calamari” – marined king oyster mushroom rings that can be battered and fried. Beyond these products, there appear to be no other ready-to-prepare commercial squid alternatives.
An ocean of opportunity
The alternative seafood market grew by 23% in 2020 and is expected to soar to $1.3 billion in the next decade. While that figure represents a fraction of the $160 billion conventional seafood market, it also reveals animal-free seafood as a wide-open space ripe for innovation and disruption.
The popularity of new products from Good Catch, Gardein, The Plant-Based Seafood Co. and Vegan Zeastar demonstrate the public’s eager appetite for seafood alternatives, recently fuelled by viral documentaries like Seaspiracy. Given the disastrous environmental impacts of industrial fishing, Jinka’s new product broadens the horizons for sustainable seafood and gives customers craving deep-fried calamari a promising new option.