While plant-based fish has not achieved the same level of consumer recognition or market penetration as meat and dairy analogues, everyone from Forbes[i] to the BBC[ii] has suggested it could be the next big thing.
“Demand for seafood is projected to outstrip supply in the coming years[iii], and the market for plant-based alternatives is starting to gain real momentum. It’s now possible to buy vegan seafood products from scampi and salmon steaks to tinned tuna and caviar.”
“With the range and quality of options now on offer, consumers are really starting to take notice. There are plenty of reasons for consumers to explore seafood substitutes. For example, nearly seven million people in the U.S. alone are allergic to shellfish[iv], and fish is also among the FDA’s top eight major food allergens.[v]”
Many consumers also have concerns over health issues relating to methylmercury[vi] and microplastics.[vii] Overfishing is another big issue, while there are also challenges around the sustainability of fish farming, including the use of antibiotics.[viii]
Meeting consumer expectations
Plant-based fish has come a long way in recent years. Manufacturers have found ways to effectively mimic the taste, texture and appearance of real seafood.
“With the arrival of the plant-based 2.0 era, though, it is now more important than ever to ensure products have clean labels,” explains Gilot. “Datassential has found that 49 % of shoppers choose plant-based products over animal alternatives because they’re healthier[ix], while FMCG Gurus research shows seven out of ten say it’s important that meat substitute products are 100% naturally formulated.[x]”
To meet modern expectations, then, manufacturers need to ensure their plant-based fish alternatives deliver sensory appeal while maintaining clean and clear labels.
“Products also need to look as appetizing as possible while advertising their clean and healthy credentials prominently. A front-of-pack claim showing that a plant-based fish product contains no artificial ingredients, for example, can really help dispel concerns among sceptical consumers.”
Help is at hand
In the plant-based 2.0 era, Gilot argues that manufacturers can no longer rely on artificial colours to create visual appeal. Furthermore, seafood substitutes can prove difficult for many plant-based colours. Plant-based fish is often based on soy, pea, lentil and chickpea, mainly processed by extrusion or created by mixing proteins with stabilising systems and a heating step. Both of these processes, in combination with high pH values, are challenging for clean-label colours.
“Our experts have developed solutions that enable manufacturers to deliver uber-realistic colouring solutions in plant-based fish using EXBERRY®. As a result, it’s possible to create products such as salmon steaks with glazing while maintaining completely clean and clear labels.”
EXBERRY® Coloring Foods are made from fruit, vegetables and plants with no chemical solvents.
“We recently extended our range of Brilliant Orange products to include powder and oil-dispersible formats as well as the existing liquid. They’re all made from paprika and carrot, so they’re perfect for a range of savoury applications, including plant-based fish.”
At Fi Europe CONNECT 2020, Gilot and his team will be revealing their latest forecast for the colour of the year.
“While we’re not giving anything away yet, our LOVE COLOR 2021 prediction is a perfect option for many savoury plant-based products,” he says.
“We’ll also be highlighting opportunities in the plant-based seafood market, helping attendees to understand consumer expectations and the importance of clean labels. We’ll show how we can help manufacturers overcome the technical challenges that can arise when using clean-label colours, to create truly spectacular plant-based seafood.”
[i] Forbes ‘Plant-based fish is the new vegan trend’ (June 2020)
[ii] BBC ‘Vegan seafood: the next plant-based meat trend?’ (June 2020)
[iii] Good Food Institute 'Opportunities in Alternative Seafood' (June 2020)
[iv] American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology ‘Shellfish Allergy’
[v] U.S. Food & Drug Administration, ‘What You Need to Know about Food Allergies’
[vi] World Health Organization, ‘Mercury and health’
[vii] Smith, M. et al. ‘Microplastics in Seafood and the Implications for Human Health’ Current Environmental Health Reports (2018)
[viii] ‘Shallow returns? ESG risks and opportunities in aquaculture’ (2019)
[ix] Datassential 'Plant-Based Eating SNAP! Keynote Report' (2018)
[x] FMCG Gurus ‘Top Trend: Plant-Life Explored’ (2020)