The chef Tsang Chiu King is preparing a subtle-but-significant change to his menu: He’s replacing the fish in some dishes with a plant-based alternative.
Plant-based products have been breaking into the foodie mainstream in the United States, after years in which vegan burgers and milk alternatives hovered on the market’s periphery. That is partly because more companies are targeting omnivores who seek to reduce the amount of meat they eat, rather than forswear it altogether. Now, as sophisticated fish alternatives begin to attract investment and land at restaurants in the United States and beyond, people who track the fishless fish sector say that it could be on the cusp of significant growth.
People who scale back their consumption of animal proteins for environmental reasons often stop eating red meat, which requires enormous amounts of land and water to cultivate and belches a lot of methane as a byproduct.
But alt-fish advocates say that seafood also comes with environmental problems. Unsustainable fishing practices have decimated fisheries in recent decades, a problem both for biodiversity and the millions of people who depend on the sea for income and food.“It’s simply a smarter way to make seafood,” said Mirte Gosker, the acting managing director of the Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, a non-profit advocacy group that promotes alternative proteins. “Full stop.”So far plant-based seafood products in the United States account for only 0.1 percent of the country’s seafood sales, less than the 1.4 percent of the U.S. meat market occupied by plant-based meat alternatives, according to the Good Food Institute.
But alt-seafood ventures worldwide received at least $83 million from investors in 2020, compared with $1 million three years earlier, according to the institute’s data. As of this June, 83 companies were producing alt-seafood products around the world, a nearly threefold rise since 2017. All but 18 of those 83 companies focus on plant-based products. Six others, including a French start-up that makes smoked salmon from microalgae, specialize in proteins derived from fermentation. A dozen others are developing lab-grown seafood, which is not yet commercially available in any country.
Mike Ives is a reporter with NYT©2021
The New York Times