While health concerns associated with traditional meat consumption, such as heart disease and bad cholesterol, are driving consumers to switch to plant-based alternatives, environmental concerns, in particular overfishing, are driving the latest craze for seafood alternatives – a whopping $175 million has been invested. in this sector worldwide in 2021, according to the Good Food Institute, an increase of 92% compared to the previous year.
Current Foods, a startup that produces plant-based tuna and salmon promising greater scalability than cultured meat and price parity with conventional seafood, just closed an $18 million seed round led by Silicon Valley alternative meat pioneers and cultural legislators. tastes embracing sports. and music.
These investors include GreatPoint Ventures Managing Partner Ray Lane, Union Grove Venture Partners, Electric Feel Ventures, Astanor Ventures, and 12-time NBA CP3 All-Star aka Chris Paul.
Launched by entrepreneur Jacek Prus, who has worked in alternative proteins for the past decade, Current Foods’ flagship tuna products, along with CTO Ron Shigeta and chief scientist Sonia Hurtado, are primarily available through B2B through food service outlets and gourmet restaurants. including celebrity chef Matthew Kenny’s restaurants.
In an emailed comment, Austin Rosen, founder of Electric Feel Entertainment and Electric Feel Ventures, notes that his fund was founded “on the basis of investing in companies that move the needle forward.” He said: “Current Foods, among our other portfolio companies that are better for you and better for the environment, is doing just that. We’re excited to support their expansion and help create the next generation of food products that consumers truly love.”
Eric Archambault, co-founder and partner of Astanor Ventures, also adds that Current Foods can provide flavor and texture, offering a real solution to current environmental and health crises. “On all of these factors, Current Foods salmon and tuna are clearly head and shoulders above other products in their category,” Archambault said. “We are very impressed with the rapid progress made by Jacek, Sonja and the team over the past two years and are very excited to support them in this next chapter of development.”
Price parity and a similar function with seafood
The Current Foods team emphasizes that the newly raised capital will support the retail launch of smoked salmon, the global expansion into the Japanese market, and the continued improvement of the company’s products. The goal is to eventually take a significant share of the seafood market, around 50%.
“Salmon and tuna are a fairly large market, so growth [rather than branching out into other seafood categories] we’re focusing a lot now,” Prus told me recently during a Zoom call, adding that the ingredients used to make Current Foods are similar to Beyond Meat with proteins processed differently to mimic the texture of seafood.
“Our first ingredient is water, the second is pea protein, but it is processed differently than [plant-based] ground beef protein,” Prus explained. “Lipids then come from sunflower and algae oils, which actually give our products the omega-3 and omega-3 DHA — the nutritional value that seafood is known for. We also designed our product to function in a similar way: our cholesterol-free products contain more fiber and less sodium than regular smoked salmon.”
As an early supporter of Beyond Meat, Lane notes that Current Foods reflects what he sees as the most exciting change happening in food innovation: the rethinking of food itself. He said, “We feel like we’ve invested in Beyond Meat from seafood, expanding the runway for wild tuna, salmon and other ocean predators because of their critical source of protein for humans and non-humans.”
He adds that overall consumer awareness of environmental protection has risen since alternative protein was introduced to the market, and seafood alternative companies such as Current Foods will play a critical role in making the ocean more resilient and healthy. “With a growing world population eating the foods we love, we are paying the ultimate price: global warming, declining health, and reduced protein sources,” Lane said.
A sharp rise in US seafood prices due to inflation could also benefit the alternative seafood sector. Fresh seafood prices rose by an average of 12.1% year on year to $8.51 per item in March 2022, the latest data from IRI and 210 Analytics showed. “Seafood is by far the biggest price increase segment because it has such a wild supply chain,” Prus said, “but we can afford to grow our business at healthy margins.”
Current Foods’ immediate plan is to make tuna available in more restaurants and places that customers can easily access and continue to expand its salmon business through direct-to-consumer and retail sales.
“Our products will keep getting better and better,” Prus added. “In the future, we will also launch a salmon steak that you can cook at home.”