Investing in the Future of Food

Investing in the Future of Food: Picking & staying in a lane can help startups drive long-term growth

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Launching a new product or company comes with seemingly endless potential that the director of marketing with the startup Ocean Hugger Foods acknowledges is exciting, but she also warns can become overwhelming unless entrepreneurs craft a strict strategy that accounts for their finite resources.

At Rabobank’s FoodBytes! pitch slam in New York City, and in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food video series, Ashley Bouldin explained how Ocean Hugger Foods is following this advice as it develops and markets its plant-based alternatives to seafood.

“One of the things that has come up a lot here at FoodBytes! … is pick your lane, and that has come across in a couple of different ways. You know, pick your strategy, go deep and really concentrate and focus on the customers that you do have,”​ so as not to stretch yourself too thin, she explained.

For Ocean Hugger Foods, which creates plant-based alternatives to seafood using a culinary approach, this means focusing first on a small fraction of the market so it can ensure consumers understand what it is offering and how to buy it.

“We have approached the market from the sushi category,”​ by launching a replacement for raw tuna that is made from whole tomatoes, soy sauce, sesame oil, water and a little bit of sugar, Bouldin said.

She explained that the company started here not only because the sushi category is worth $225 billion globally, but because tuna is one of the most endangered animals and almost 90% of commercial fish stocks are either fully fished or over-fished.

And yet, she adds, people’s taste for seafood is going up.

Because few people prepare sushi at home, the young company sells its product through food service as a branded ingredient.

Growing slow but steady

Given the complexity of raising brand awareness around a food service ingredient, Ocean Hugger Foods is focusing first on North America before expanding globally.

“We are a startup. We are using our resources as efficiently as possible and we are tackling our own backyard right now,”​ but “we do see the opportunity to expand globally,”​ once consumers know about Ocean Hugger, where to find it, how to enjoy it and have generated sufficient demand to help fund the company’s expansion, Bouldin said.

With that in mind, she said, the company is working “very diligently and quickly to expand our capacity”​ by opening two new production facilities that will service Europe and Asia, as well as several new products – including a plant-based alternative to eel and salmon used in sushi.


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