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Seafood Market Revolution: Alternatives to Conventional Fish

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Embracing sustainable alternatives, alternative seafood companies are revolutionizing the market with innovative sources like pea protein, insects, and jellyfish, to save the oceans and meet the needs of flexitarian consumers.

In a world where climate change poses a growing threat, more and more people are seeking alternatives to traditional meat and fish. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), by 2030, over 60 percent of the fish we consume is expected to come from aquaculture. Alternative seafood companies are leveraging the growing interest in sustainable foods to save the world's oceans and meet the needs of flexitarian consumers. With increasing support from investors, these companies have the potential to revolutionize the market for traditional fish products. They are exploring unconventional food sources like pea protein, insects, and jellyfish. One important support for alternative seafood companies is the UK Seafood Fund, which promotes the development of sustainable technologies.

Examples of Alternative Seafood Companies

Companies such as Lerøy Seafood Group and Grieg Seafood are finding ways to reduce their production and environmental costs by using alternatives to diesel and adopting renewable energy sources. Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed batteries from crab and lobster shells. In the US, six new groups have recently joined the Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture, alongside environmental organizations and award-winning chefs, advocating for a science-based approach to sustainable aquaculture. Alternative seafood companies like New School Foods, Plantish, and ISH Food Company are experimenting with new technologies and specific plant-based proteins to replicate the complex texture, high protein content, and omega-3 levels found in salmon. Together, they have secured over £25.8 million ($31 million, €29 million) in start-up capital. Israeli start-up Plantish, founded by food researchers with a mission to create boneless fish fillets from plants, has patented a new 3D-printed salmon product that will be available in upscale restaurants starting in 2024.

In addition to jellyfish as a fish option, vegan or plant-based fish meat could soon be offered as well.

Introducing New Foods

The challenge for alternative seafood brands is to develop tasty and forward-thinking products that overcome consumer resistance. While a new study by Morning Consult indicates that Generation Z enjoys discovering new products and spends a significant portion of their money on food and beverages, not all surveyed adults are as adventurous. Fifty-four percent of the representative sample of 2,210 adults reported not trying any new packaged food product in recent months, and 59 percent said they had not ordered a new dish at a restaurant. Brands must therefore proactively work to change consumer perceptions and make unconventional foods like jellyfish an attractive option. Jellyfish are one of the few marine creatures benefiting from ocean warming, with their populations increasing in recent years. This superfood tastes similar to oysters, consists mostly of water, but is considered healthy due to its high protein, healthy fats, and trace elements such as calcium and sodium. Furthermore, jellyfish are cholesterol-free, rich in collagen, and extremely low in calories.

Plant-Based Seafood as a Long-Term Trend

In addition to jellyfish as a fish option, vegan or plant-based seafood is becoming increasingly important and popular as an alternative source of protein. A report by the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA) in 2023 states that 60 percent of US restaurant operators view plant-based diets as a long-term trend. Among the 4,800 US chains and independent restaurants surveyed, upcoming plant-based food products and formats were highlighted as solid year-on-year growth potentials, including plant-based crumbles (87 percent), seafood (57 percent), fish (44 percent), and eggs (52 percent). As consumers are already accustomed to vegan burgers (14 percent) and sausages (24 percent), it is expected that plant-based seafood will also experience increasing demand.

Increasing Awareness through Partnerships

As eco-anxiety continues to rise, dietary habits both at home and outside are evolving towards eco-focused innovations in the alternative and conventional seafood industry. The integration of plant-based seafood options into menus is becoming increasingly popular in numerous US restaurants, with fast-food chain Veggie Grill being a prime example. This trend is largely attributed to partnerships with large-scale food distributors that provide a broad customer base, distribution channels, marketing support, and strategic menu placements.

The ISH Food Company is also benefiting from this trend. The company, specializing in plant-based shrimp, collaborates with Dot Foods, the largest food distributor in North America. While The ISH Food Company is already present in restaurants and cafeterias such as Harvard and Amherst, Dot Foods' distribution ecosystem will contribute to the company's growing recognition throughout the food industry on the continent. By targeting communication to local restaurant owners, school cafeterias, universities, and hospitals, they can effectively increase consumer acceptance, brand awareness, and product availability.

Copyrights: LS:N Global, The Future Laboratory by Francesca Glass and Savannah Scott

Statistics and Facts

The revenue in the fish and seafood industry amounts to £507.5 billion ($611.8 billion, €580.3 billion) in 2023. The market is expected to expand at an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2% from 2023 to 2027 (Source: Statista).

The global market size for plant-based seafood was £34.8 million ($42 million, €39.8 million) in 2021 and is projected to reach £1.1 billion ($1.3 billion, €1.2 billion) with a CAGR of 42% from 2022 to 2031 (Source: Allied Market Research).

The global market for seafood extracts was valued at £6.6 billion ($8 billion, €7.6 billion) in 2021 and is expected to expand to £11.2 billion ($13.5 billion, €12.8 billion) with a CAGR of 5.3% from 2022 to 2031 (Source: Transparency Market Research).