Cultivated seafood production advances with strategic deals struck by BlueNalu and Upside Foods

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Monty Rakusen
Source: Getty/Monty Rakusen

Related tags cultivated meat cultured meat

Leaders in the cultured protein category, including BlueNalu and Upside Foods, are making waves with key partnerships and acquisitions announced this week that will boost production and access to cultivated seafood.

In the US, Upside Foods – formerly Memphis Meats – added lobster and other crustaceans to its portfolio with the acquisition of Wisconsin-based Cultured Decadence, which developed several proprietary seafood cell lines and feeds since its founding in 2020. This complements Upside’s work on poultry and dabbling in duck and meatballs since its launch.

In addition to new technology, the deal also brings Upside Foods a team of “passionate, smart individuals” who Upside Foods CEO Uma Valeti says will help accelerate the company’s mission.

While Cultured Decadence will be folded into Upside’s branding, it will remain in Wisconsin as the larger company’s new Midwest hub – a geographic expansion that builds on Upside’s recent opening in California of its Engineering, Production and Innovation Center.

On the other side of the world on the same day, cultivated seafood company BlueNalu announced it is partnering with Japanese foodservice leader Food & Life Companies, which serves more than 1,000 restaurants across the Asia-Pacific region, to develop a sustainable “supply-chain solution for bluefin tuna and other sushi-grade products.” 

The duo will focus first on the commercial production of BlueNalu branded toro – the belly of bluefin tuna, which company CEO Lou Cooperhouse said will demonstrate the company’s “culinary excellence”​ by showcasing how cell-cultured technology can create “the most prized portion of the most sought-after fish in the mot iconic marketplace for seafood.”

By focusing on toro, which has unique sensory characteristics and flavor, BlueNalu will show how cell-cultured seafood can meet “the taste, texture and nutrition that consumers expect, and will not be susceptible to environmental contaminants, like mercury and microplastics,”​ Cooperhouse added in the announcement.

BlueNalu’s partnership with Food & Life Companies builds on other recent collaborations, including one with Europe’s largest frozen food company Nomad Foods, announced​ last fall. It also has partnered with Pulmuone in South Korea, Sumitomo Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan and Thai Union in Thailand.

Seafood demand outpaces supply

The moves by BlueNalu and Upside Foods come at a time when global seafood consumption is rising at a faster rate than the seafood supply in the ocean can meet – even with the help of acquaculture.

In the US, seafood consumption in 2019 increased to 19.2 pounds per person, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is up 0.2 pounds from 2019 – mostly from increased consumption of canned seafood – and up from 17.7 pounds per person in 2010. And at a global level, the United Nations predicts seafood consumption will rise 30% to 28 million metric tons of new seafood production by 2030.

Yet, the World Bank estimates close to 90% of global marine fish stocks are now fully exploited or overfished – underscoring the need for new solutions, like cultivated seafood.

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