May 2021 | Yana Viardo, Marketing and PR Director
A new survey conducted by The Good Food Institute and Kelton Global highlighted the market potential for alternative seafood products. The niche market of plant-based seafood is well-positioned to expand and has great success due to its NUTRITIONAL, FUNCTIONAL, and ENVIRONMENTAL benefits.
In the past few years, millions of people have transitioned to eating a more plant-based diet which is reflected by the growth in sales within the plant-based meat and dairy markets. Whether families decided to make this change due to ethical reasons, to improve their health, or to contribute to a more sustainable environment, the success of plant-based foods demonstrates a shift in American ideology within the food industry.
Research indicated that perceived taste and texture were a primary factor that helped consumers jump from traditional seafood to a plant-based alternative.
According to Joe O'Neill, VP of Sales & Business Development at A&B Ingredients, "Formulating seafood alternatives is not without its challenges."
A&B Ingredients offers a range of clean-label, plant-based ingredients designed to address the formulation challenges when creating plant-based seafood alternatives. The clean-label ingredient solutions allow food manufacturers to formulate alternative seafood products that taste great and resemble the mouthfeel and texture of real seafood.
Crispy Crunchy Coatings: Panko Style crumbs, otherwise known as gluten-free breadcrumbs made from Texta Pois range of Pea Flakes. Similar in texture to panko flakes, Texta Pois gluten-free breadcrumbs can add a layer of crispiness and bright yellow color that is so familiar to consumers who enjoy battered foods.
Rusk Alternative: The pea flakes can also be used as a breadcrumb or rusk alternative when formulating plant-based fish products. These all-natural, clean-label, plant-based 'breadcrumbs' are ideal for use in products like plant-based fish cakes. And thanks to its high water-binding capacity, Texta Pois can be used as a filling to enhance fish cakes' texture.
Texta Pois has already seen remarkable success in Europe and is now available through A&B Ingredients for the US marketplace. Joel Reynaud, Commercial Director of SOTEXPRO (France), whose company has pioneered texturizing solutions from pea protein, claims, "Our unique panko style gluten-free crumbs range is made from non-GMO peas grown in France and is perfect for crispy coating applications or filling applications in plant-based seafood and other plant-based meat formulations. The Texta line of textured pea proteins and faba bean proteins is very low in off-notes, easy to flavor, and provides real fish-like textures in crab cakes and seafood alternatives."
Moisture Retention / Juiciness
A&B Ingredients' pea fiber products also offer technical advantages in plant-based seafood formulations. The pea fiber products enhance the succulence and moisture retention of plant-based seafood while helping with cold-forming properties during processing.
Plant-based seafood products are often formulated with oils and fats, which may have a tendency to oxidize and produce off-flavors over time. A&B Ingredients offers plant-based antioxidants to extend shelf life and maintain freshness over time.
Fish and plant-based seafood products have a delicate flavor, much of which can be lost when reducing sodium or salt in the formulation. Mediterranean Umami (a natural blend of seaweed, tomato, and mushroom extracts) helps maintain a balanced flavor profile while reducing sodium content in these foods.
The alternative seafood sector is considered a white space within the general plant-based food sales. According to the Good Food Institute's survey data, in 2020, plant-based sales reached $7 billion. Still, alternative seafood accounted for only one percent of the total plant-based meat and seafood market. This sales gap provides a tremendous opportunity for growth within the alternative seafood segment for food manufacturers. Battered Fishcake Made From Alternative Proteins and Plant-Based Ingredients
As many consumers place increasing importance on their personal health and the environment, the alternative seafood market becomes even more valuable. According to the Good Food Institute, "78 percent of consumers would try plant-based...seafood" if encouraged by proper messaging. This statistic shows that in order to sell these products successfully, product marketing must include general information about its environmental, health, and nutritional advantages. When customers are familiar with what consuming seafood means in relation to the ecosystem and their health and well-being, the likelihood of them trying and supporting alternative seafood will increase substantially.
Whether it is shrimp, tuna, salmon, cod, scallops, or anything in between, the opportunities to develop and drive sales within this market are countless. Replicating seafood enthusiasts' favorite meals -- coconut shrimp, sesame-crusted tuna, sushi, and the occasional battered fish and chips -- within the plant-based sector is a great way to innovate and catch customers' attention.
Consumers see the alternative seafood category as an opportunity for healthy eating. Apart from taste preferences, many people choose to eat fish because it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids (which support brain health), and it is an excellent source of protein. When it comes to plant-based seafood, the nutritional benefits of alternative seafood include lack of mercury contamination, low risk of foodborne illness, higher protein intake, no microplastics, and low allergenicity, among others. Food formulators trying to break into the plant-based seafood market need to find a way to mimic seafood's nutritional benefits in their alternative products. Customers may be more willing to switch to plant-based seafood when they see allergen-free options rich in protein, fiber, and omega-3s.
According to NYU Langone Health, approximately one-third of all Americans try to avoid gluten. Gluten-free product sales have been growing rapidly in recent years, which can indirectly help promote alternative seafood products. If a food formulator uses Texta Pois (gluten-free breadcrumbs) to coat a plant-based seafood product, it will further attract the health-conscious consumer and will enhance the marketing of an 'all-natural, healthy, and sustainable product.
Consumers also stated that the environmental benefits of eating plant-based seafood were important to them. People are starting to see the effects of overfishing and plastic pollution on the world and their health. Switching to plant-based seafood could be the only way to prevent many marine species from facing endangerment or extinction. Additionally, by choosing alternative seafood products, consumers will not have to worry about consuming trace amounts of mercury or unknowingly consuming microplastics. In that sense, plant-based seafood products will help alleviate environmental concerns and contribute to a healthier diet.