KANSAS CITY - In the past few years, the plant-based meat industry has exploded. Following the lead of fast-food giants and others in the foodservice world, retail grocery has added a variety of new products from Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and other plant-based producers.

Beef, pork, chicken and turkey, yes. But what about seafood? Up to this point, that particular corner of the protein galaxy has mostly stayed out of the headlines when it comes to plant-based.

But that’s quickly changing, with new plant-based seafood alternatives coming to market and promising to eventually — likely sooner rather than later — change the complexion of supermarket seafood departments.

Nestlé expands its plant-based portfolio with seafood

Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestlé’s launch of a plant-based alternative to tuna is the company’s first foray into plant-based seafood.

The plant-based tuna alternative has a flaky texture and rich flavor that can be used in a wide range of dishes such as salads, sandwiches and pizzas, according to Nestle.

Made from a combination of only six plant-based ingredients, the product is rich in nutritious pea protein, one of the most environmentally friendly sources of plant-based protein. It contains all the essential amino acids and is free of artificial colorings or preservatives.

"Sustainably produced plant-based seafood alternatives can help to reduce overfishing and to protect the biodiversity of our oceans,” said Stefan Palzer, Nestlé’s chief technology officer. “Our plant-based tuna alternative is delicious, nutritious and high in protein. We are excited to launch this great product, and other plant-based fish and shellfish alternatives are already under development."

Nestlé developed the tuna alternative in nine months, leveraging its expertise in protein science and proprietary technologies, Palzer said. The company already offers a variety of other plant-based products, including alternatives to burgers, mince, meatballs, sausages, cold cuts, chicken nuggets, and chicken filets.

The products were developed by Nestlé Research in Switzerland and the company’s dedicated R&D Centers for food in Germany and the United States. To increase speed-to-market, products are rapidly prototyped and tested in selected retail outlets, and first commercial batches are produced in Nestlé R&D facilities.

"We are delighted to launch this strategic expansion of Nestlé’s plant-based offerings in the Swiss market first,” said Eugenio Simioni, market head for Nestlé Switzerland. “It’s another example of the innovation strength of Nestlé in Switzerland, and the exceptional capabilities and expertise we have in this country in the area of food and nutrition."

The product was first launched under the Garden Gourmet brand in Switzerland.

Gathered Foods expands production, distribution

Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch plant-based seafood products, has opened a new dedicated production facility at its Heath, Ohio, headquarters.

The 42,500 sq ft. facility was constructed specifically for high-tech production of Good Catch's plant-based product offerings, according to the company. It features state-of-the-art processing equipment to produce best-in-industry plant-based foods.

"We are incredibly proud to establish a strong manufacturing footprint in the US as we grow our product portfolio," said Christine Mei, CEO of Gathered Foods. "With Good Catch's rapid expansion and the launch of our new line of frozen plant-based entrees and appetizers, having our own production facility enables us to optimize productivity and efficiency. We are fully committed to delivering high quality plant-based seafood products which delight and satisfy our consumers each and every time."

Good Catch's line includes New England Style Plant-Based Crab Cakes, Thai Style Plant-Based Fish Cakes, and Classic Style Plant-Based Fish Burgers, launched in 2020 in retailers across the East Coast.

The entrees and appetizers are crafted from Good Catch's proprietary six-legume blend (peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans), which is high in protein and used as the base of Good Catch products to mimic the texture and flakiness of seafood.

The opening of the new facility follows the company’s securing of $36.8 million Series B Financing Round and the expansion of its distribution footprint on an international scale with its Tesco launch in the UK.

In other recent news, Good Catch announced a joint distribution venture with Bumble Bee Foods, as well as new backing from celebrities Woody Harrelson, Shailene Woodley, Paris Hilton and Lance Bass, which, the company says, “signifies the overwhelming belief in the future of plant-based seafood.”

Gardein’s retail catch

Richmond, British Columbia Gardein offers two plant-based seafood alternatives, available online and in-store at many leading retail chains.

The company’s  Mini Crabless Cakes are “swimming with flavor and made for sharing,” according to Gardein. The 8.8-ounce product ships in 10-count packs. The cakes are made from wheat flour, soy, green onions, potato starch, garlic, chickpea flour and other ingredients and are certified vegan, kosher and dairy-free.

Gardein’s other plant-based seafood product, a Golden Fishless Filet, ships in a 10.1 ounce pack and is also certified vegan, kosher and dairy free. Coated in a light golden tempura batter, Gardein Golden Fishless Filets contain omega-3s and no cholesterol, are ready-to-eat in 10 minutes and contain 9 grams of plant-based protein per serving.