“When we make new items, a couple of things that we always keep in mind are flavor and function. Those are very important for us. So, we are developing product that is flavorful and also easy for consumers to use. So that is a main reason that we come up with this tuna product, we see a lot of variety of plant-based items, but there’s really a lack of the seafood selection in the refrigerated area.”
Does the plant-based seafood market have rough tides ahead?
Available nationwide this month, Franklin Farms’ tuna is non-GMO and cholesterol-free, formulated with a blend of plant-based proteins, including from soy and wheat, and comes in Original and Jalapeno flavors. The refrigerated tuna product mimics the taste and texture of tuna and is a "1:1 replacement for regular canned tuna," said Cindy Wong, VP of sales at Franklin Farms.
The product is sold in the produce section, where it addresses the "void" of plant-based seafood options, she added.
“Produce is the space where we live ... and that's where a majority of our products are merchandising the produce and by adding offering to tuna, we know that there's a demand, and there's a void,” she added.
Plant-based offers a more sustainable and healthier way to consume seafood, Cheng noted, explaining it doesn't contribute to overfishing or contain mercury like some wild-caught seafood.
Looking more broadly at the plant-based market, Franklin Farms also sees an opportunity to cater to flexitarians with healthier, better for you options and with familiar product formats, Wong said.
“About three or four years ago, we [saw] this huge exponential growth on plant-based, and certainly, we do see it as more kind of steady now,” she said. “Market research shows that consumers ... understand the importance of plant-based they also want kind of that comfort food.”
From chickpea tofu to RTE tofu snacks
In addition to the plant-based tuna product, Franklin Farms offers chickpea tofu and RTE tofu, Cheng and Wong shared.
"Traditionally, tofu is always made with soy, and we know soy is an allergen for some consumers, and there are also people that have concerns about eating soy products. We launched the chickpea tofu last year, which is a great success for us because first the ingredients [are] very simple, just chickpea and water,” Cheng said. “And we have developed a process that allows those ingredients to form and bind together as a tofu, and you can use it as traditional tofu."
In the RTE space, Franklin Farms also has marinated tofu bites in flavors like lemon pepper and barbecue, which "you can just open the bag toss on the salad, or you can warm it up and do stir fry," Wong said.
Beyond convenience, Wong said the company ensures products offer the high-protein content consumers want.