Fake seafood industry gets big investment

While the plant-based burger wars have been going on for several years, plant-based fish is only in its infancy. But that is about to change as new entrants emerge with different types of artificial fish offerings and investors rush to fund them.

In the US alone, investment in plant-based, fermented or cage-based artificial fish reached $178.2 million in the first half of last year, according to, bringing total investment to over $306 million in 2021. Experts predict the sector could become a $1.6 billion business over the next ten years as more environmentally conscious consumers seek alternatives to seafood.

Ocean trawling, which drags nets along the ocean floor in search of fish, produces as much carbon dioxide as air travel, according to a 2021 study. study published in Nature. And overfishing of wild salmon puts this species at risk.

As demand for seafood alternatives rises, so do names such as Plantish, Sophie’s Kitchen, Gardein, Good Catch and Toronto-based startup New School Foods, which specializes in plant-based salmon.

“We’ve spent the last 2-3 years developing, developing this brand new technology that allows us to create muscle fibers entirely from plants and then assemble them into larger structures like whole cuts of meat,” said Chris Bryson, co-founder and CEO. new school products.

The company claims it “looks, cooks, tastes and flakes just like regular fish.” We can’t confirm because it’s not for sale yet. But unlike most plant-based meats, which are pre-cooked, minced, and often formed into patties or nuggets, this is whole, raw meat.

“Then you can cook it in your kitchen and watch it go from raw to cooked, unlike most meat alternatives that exist today,” Bryson added.

So-called salmon includes both plant-based and water-based ingredients, including seaweed, pea and soy proteins, and oils rich in omega fats such as those found in seaweed, flax and hemp. Investors say they hope it will appeal to those already buying plant-based meats.

New School will launch in restaurants first because approximately 70% of seafood is consumed in restaurants. Bryson said collaboration with chefs will also help fine-tune the taste of the product and how it is cooked before it hits supermarket shelves.

“If the share of plant-based seafood in North America and Europe is even 1-2%, we will certainly be talking about a multi-billion dollar market with very few competitors in this area right now,” said Nick Cooney, Managing Partner. at Lever VC, an investment fund specializing in alternative protein companies.

Cooney himself was one of the first investors in Beyond Meat. He noted that unlike fake meat, which is usually more expensive than real meat, fake fish can be cheaper for consumers as the cost of real fish has skyrocketed.

“And, of course, this cost has a big impact on consumer behavior,” he added.

In addition to Lever VC, New School Foods is backed by Blue Horizon, Hatch, Good Startup, Alwyn Capital and Joyance Partners. So far, $12 million has been raised.

CNBC producer Lisa Rizzolo contributed to this story.

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