The tie-up aims to help Chicago-based Aqua Cultured Foods advance the development of its seafood alternatives, while gauging consumer perception in Europe.
Specifically, Swiss consumer acceptance of the start-up’s fermentation-derived seafood alternatives will be assessed, and new business opportunities explored in the EEA country.
Aqua is developing the ‘world’s first’ whole-muscle cut, ‘sushi-quality’ filets of tuna and whitefish, as well as shrimp and calamari alternatives, based on novel fermentation technology.
By leveraging non-GMO microbial fermentation techniques, the start-up is ‘growing’ these fungi-based seafood offerings for foodservice.
Founded in 2020 by Anne Palermo and Brittany Chibe, the company has since filed a series of patents covering the method of production, its usage in the food system, and the fungi strain itself. In so doing, Aqua hopes to open up new opportunities in the nascent alt seafood category.
The company’s fermentation methods are devoid of animal inputs, genetic altering, or modification. And its nutritional values, the start-up claims, are similar to that of cod.
Per serving, Aqua's offerings will contain 18-20g of protein, 10-12g of fibre, and provide a source of Omega-3s. The products contain no sodium, saturated fat or cholesterol.
Cod contains 18g of protein, 0.7g of fat, 43mg of cholesterol, 54mg of sodium, and no fibre.
Making a splash in Europe
Although the PoC agreement has a Swiss focus, chief growth officer Brittany Chibe told this publication Aqua is ‘absolutely looking at all of Europe’.
Europeans in EU Member States are thought to consume close to 30kg of seafood per capita per year, and overall import far more than is consumed locally.
“The worldwide demand for seafood is exceeding the ocean’s capacity, and we appreciate that Migros wants to be part of the solution,” said Chibe.
“Interest in our alternative seafood is coming from Europe, North America and Asia, because the need for more sustainable proteins is increasing as the climate crisis worsens and population grows.”
Aqua was exposed to Migros, and vice versa, having been accepted into Swiss start-up incubator Kickstart earlier this year.
“Throughout partnership with Kickstart, Migros was one of the first European retailers we’ve been in communication with and hence they’re the first retailer there that has signed a deal,” Chibe elaborated.
From Migros’ perspective, Aqua has presented some ‘exciting’ technology and products that the retailer believes can ‘revolutionise the seafood category’. “The Swiss market welcomes food tech, and we are ready to introduce the region to the future of alternative proteins,” said a Migros spokesperson.
Aqua has plans to file for novel food authorisation. Back in the US, the start-up is scaling production and building infrastructure with the plan of launching its first commercial products next year.