While the plant-based seafood market makes up a small portion of the plant-based category, brands are at an inflection point to develop unique ways to reinterpret, mimic or even experiment with ingredients and processes. Some methods, like extrusion or shear cell technologies, offer technical solutions that mimic seafood’s diverse and unique textures. Others, like Seed To Surf, work with nature’s existing plant portfolio to reimagine vegetables in a seafood setting.
“Celebrate vegetables for what they are”
Founded in 2020, Seed To Surf’s primary goal was to “celebrate vegetables for what they are,” according to co-founder, Alexandra Bergquist. Its branding focuses first on a vegetable-forward product line and the seafood experience second, drawing from fine dining vegan menus as well.
Currently, the brand has two products on specialty retail shelves in the U.S., both tinned with five or less ingredients: an enoki mushroom crab (with sunflower oil, kombu kelp and sea salt) and smoked celery root white fish (smoked with sunflower oil and sea salt).
“We found that these two vegetables really took on and enhanced that seafood experience that people might know well,” she explained.
While enoki mushrooms and celery root encompass the texture of its seafood counterparts, the brand worked with food scientists to develop its complementing natural flavors, in addition to retort technology which “cooks” the vegetables in the canning process.
Intersecting plant-based and seafood segments
While the plant-based seafood scene is in its early growth stages, canned seafood is booming. Canned seafood sales rose nearly 10% to $2.7 billion in 2022, based on Euromonitor data reported by the Food Institute.
Driven by consumer demand for shelf-stable products, clean label and preservative-free packaged foods, canned seafood is an opportunity for plant-based seafood brands to intersect seafood and plant-based consumer groups. As reported earlier this month in FoodNavigator-USA, consumer adoption of plant-based seafood is low, but there is an opportunity to grow as mix-ins for other meals.
Bergquist explained how incorporating Seed To Surf's products into familiar recipes helps create more education on the segment.
"Our mushroom crab is amazing in a crab dip, while the smoked whitefish is great on a bagel. [Consumers] should try these products in the best way possible. [It's] setting them up for success."
Consumers, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, continue looking for easy-to-prepare plant-based foods, which gives canned plant-based seafood an opportunity to shine. Whether through social media (#tinnedfish currently has 21.8k posts), YouTube or a brand’s recipe blog, consumers are hungry for recipe content, particularly with novel ingredients.