US – Seafood giant Thai Union Group has allied with the US plant-based seafood business, The Ish Company, marking its first concrete foray into the plant-based seafood market in the US.
The Thailand-based processor, which sells plant-based tuna in Europe, said Plant-based seafood remains small in the US, representing less than 1% of conventional seafood.
As the global population grows, so does the need for protein, which the Thai Union sees as the next growth opportunity for the seafood category at large.
Many market analysts say plant-based tuna sales are poised to surge especially on account of the rising adoption of vegan and flexitarian lifestyles and the exponentially rising demand for alternatives for dietary products.
Rising environmental concerns and increasing cases of seafood allergies are also encouraging consumers to choose plant-based tuna.
According to Future Market Insights (FMI), the plant-based tuna market will exhibit a 17.9% CAGR between 2020 and 2030.
However, this potential segment faces challenges including taste, texture, a consistent and well-developed supply chain, and concerns about consumers’ purchasing power.
With this challenge ahead of the partners, the Thai Union plans to use its distribution muscle in the US to support its alt-seafood partner.
The company added that it also understands that different consumers seek different choices, and plant-based is one of these choices and believes it needs to be part of this nascent, yet possibly large segment into the future.
This step further enhances efforts on sustainable seafood, and the partners believe that this new segment, once it has overcome the hurdles indicated, will have a very bright future as a business, and for the planet.
The US plant-based seafood business was founded in 2020 and markets a coconut- and konjac-based alternative to shrimp through food service outlets in the US.
Christie Fleming, the president and COO of The Ish Company, said: “We’re focusing on expanding our footprint in food service first, but we have plans for a broader retail launch in 2023.”
Likewise, Maarten Geraets, the managing director of Thai Union’s alternative-proteins arm, also agreed with the expansion of their outreach but highlighted that at the moment this is just an alliance.
He added that the partnership will have both parties collaborate together to excite the nascent/new segment of plant-based seafood in the US by leveraging each other’s strengths to exploit the potential the market is going to offer.
“The alliance with Ish is indeed the first real step into the US for Thai Union, where we actively get involved in building this exciting category, and further grow our presence in the larger seafood space, including plant-based,” Garet concluded.