The faux seafood category is a small fish within a large plant-based pond. In the US, vegan seafood made up just 1% of all retail sales value of plant-based meat last year.
Now, Nestlé is also wanting a piece of the (fish) pie. The food giant has today (20 August 2020) announced the launch of its own plant-based tuna alternative, Vuna, to be sold under the Garden Gourmet brand in Switzerland.
Mimicking the real deal
It took Nestlé nine months to develop the tuna alternative at sites in Switzerland, Germany and the US.
The product – designed to be consumed in dishes such as salads, sandwiches and pizzas – was ‘rapidly’ prototyped and tested in a number of retail outlets. The first commercial batches were produced at Nestlé’s own R&D facilities.
According to a company spokesperson, Vuna mimics both the flavour and texture of the real thing. “We have used our culinary and technical expertise to find the right combination of plant-based protein and flavours and combine them using proprietary technologies to create the rich flavour and flaky texture of tuna,” we were told.
“We used our proprietary, patented wet extrusion technology that we use for our plant-based meat alternatives, such as our vegan bacon and plant-based burger.”
Just six ingredients
Vuna is made from just six ingredients: water, pea protein, wheat gluten, rapeseed oil, salt, and a natural flavour blend.
From a nutritional standpoint, the product is ‘quite comparable’ to standard tuna, we were told. Per 100g, Vegan Vuna contains 266kcal, 23.4g protein, 18.2g fat (2.4g saturated fat), 0.1g fibres, 0.1g sugars, and 1.4g sodium. It contains all essential amino acids and is devoid of artificial colourings and preservatives.
Of course, the spokesperson explained, ‘the nutritional profile of standard tuna can vary quite a lot’. “For example, it depends on whether it is in oil – including the type of oil – or salty water.
“Our plant-based tuna alternative is made with rapeseed oil, which is known for its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. In terms of macronutrients, the nutritional profile is quite comparable to ‘standard tuna’ in oil – it is rich in protein and is low in carbohydrates.”
The product’s primary protein source, pea protein, is regarded one of the most environmentally friendly sources of plant-based protein. “Sustainably produced plant-based seafood alternatives can help to reduce overfishing and to protect the biodiversity of our oceans,” said Nestlé’s Chief Technology Officer, Stefan Palzer.
First stop, Switzerland
Nestlé is first launching Vuna in Switzerland. The product will be available as both a chilled product in a glass jar, and as plant-based tuna sandwiches. Further rollout plans will be announced at a later date.
Palzar revealed the food giant is also eyeing up other seafood alternatives, including plant-based fish and shellfish offerings, which ‘are already under development’.