Alt-seafood startup Aqua Cultured Foods announces the development of calamari fries, the brand’s first commercial food product. Made from mycoprotein fermentation, the product offers a realistic calamari taste and texture, and will be available through the startup’s strategic partners later this year.
Aqua Cultured creates whole-muscle, sushi-quality seafood alternatives that match traditional seafood in flavor and nutritional value. Compared to squid-based calamari, Aqua Cultured’s product contains more protein, less sodium, and zero cholesterol or saturated fat. Unlike conventional seafood, the brand’s creations also provide a good source of fiber.
To perfect the calamari fries’ formula, the company enlisted the expertise of renowned chef and restaurateur Johnny Carino, who helped the team refine the product’s squid-like texture and preparation.
“As you bite in, you get an immediate crunch note that combines with the realistic, slightly chewy texture of the calamari,” said Carino. “It looks and acts like calamari. There was no learning curve as you’d expect with a completely new product or ingredient.”
Aqua Cultured’s calamari is completely animal-free and made without the use of GMO ingredients. In addition to squid, the company is also developing fermentation-based shrimp, scallops and whole filets of whitefish and tuna.
“Ahead of schedule”
Specialty seafood delicacies like calamari remain a large innovation whitespace, as there are currently few existing squid alternatives on the market. In 2021, plant-based brand Jinka previewed frozen vegan calamari at the Plant-Based World Expo, but the product has not yet been released.
Seafood alternatives sales grew by 23% in 2020 and the industry is expected to reach $1.3 billion in the next decade. Aqua Cultured’s speedy development of calamari makes it one of the fastest-emerging leaders in the field.
“We’re moving on an accelerated timeline from the R&D stage to commercialization, and now our focus will be scale-up, strategic alliances, and go-to-market partners such as restaurant chains,” said Aqua CEO Anne Palermo. “Hitting this milestone ahead of schedule is an achievement for the alt-seafood and alt-protein sectors, as well as for us as a company.”