While traditional seafood has seen massive spikes in consumption amid the pandemic, how are plant-based alternatives faring?
“Plant-based seafood delivers the full package for nutrition and environmentally conscious consumers who love the taste of seafood,” enthuses Dan Hofmeister, SVP of brand marketing at San Diego-based Bumble Bee, which recently entered into a sales, distribution and logistics partnership with New York-based Gathered Foods, maker of shelf-stable and frozen plant-based seafood items under the Good Catch brand. “Whether they think of themselves as a seafood connoisseur, vegan or flexitarian, plant-based seafood has a role to play in their diet. Retailers across the country are rapidly taking steps to meet the needs of these consumers by expanding their frozen and shelf-stable seafood assortment.”
Megan Rider, domestic marketing director at the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), is quick to warn, however, that “many health benefits and key nutrients of wild sustainable Alaska seafood, for example, omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, can’t be easily replaced by plant-based options. For that reason, retailers should ensure that plant-based is clearly marked as such and/or merchandised in locations clearly marked as plant-based, so that those consumers actually seeking wild sustainable seafood are able to identify it easily and clearly.”
Among retailers, the jury is still out as to whether plant-based seafood will catch on in a big way, but early indications at some grocers are promising.
“Plant-based is relatively new in the seafood industry,” notes Lisa Guinther, seafood category manager at Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, an Ahold Delhaize USA banner. “We have recently introduced three new plant-based items from Good Catch: Crab Cakes, Fish Burgers, and Fish Cakes. Since introducing these items back in July, we have seen our sales and consumer base grow on these items. We are continuing to look for additional plant-based items to offer our customers.”
“While we do carry a few options, we are not seeing a big demand for plant-based seafood options at this time in terms of sales or member/shopper request, certainly not in the way we are seeing some people make the shift from beef to products like Beyond Meat,” admits David Sanz, meat and seafood merchandiser at Seattle-based PCC Community Markets, a cooperative with 15 locations.
“At this time, these offerings are only offered at our GreenWise Market locations,” which carry a range of organic, natural and specialty groceries, says Maria Brous, director of communications at Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets. “The product is performing well; however, the existing products are out in front of the consumer demand. Brands will need to invest more capital to market to consumers in the way that plant-based meat brands have.”