The existence of meat alternatives is far from a new phenomena — tofu and wheat gluten have been around for millenia. What is new is the sheer number and sources of alternative proteins and meat substitutes that are becoming available to consumers. Normally, the meat substitutes are intended as a replacement for beef, chicken, and pork. Now, Finless Foods has stepped into the fray with the introduction of a plant-based tuna, set to hit the shelves in 2022.
We first reported on Finless Foods back in 2017 when it was setting off on its mission to produce cell-cultured seafood. The company originally had the sole method of cell culture in mind. This is where cells are taken from an animal, in this case a fish, and then grown in lab conditions outside of the fish. This is the same technique that is used for lab-grown chicken and other lab-grown meats.
There are some strong arguments for producing seafood and meat using this method. In respect of seafood, there is intense overfishing happening worldwide. Switching to cell-cultured fish would help to reduce the overexploitation of fish stocks. For meat production, cell-cultured meat is much less carbon intensive than traditional farming methods. Providing more sustainable options for seafood and meat while still offering the same products is a real boon.
For this new product, Finless Foods has created a plant-based tune from nine whole ingredients. The tuna produced is actually intended to be a raw tuna product that will be used in dishes such as sushi or poke bowls, which would otherwise use raw fish. The company says that it worked with chefs to get the product right, working hard on the taste and texture.
Effectively imitating the texture of meat and fish has been one of the key challenges for alternative protein producers for a long time, but recent progress with products such as the Impossible Burger has shown that this challenge can be met. Finless Foods said that the chefs who tried the new plant-based tuna raved about its mouthfeel and the look, which is a good sign.
Alternative protein companies are no longer just aiming at vegetarians and vegans, they are now targeting consumers who are environmentally aware and who are trying to reduce their meat consumption. The negative environmental impact of seafood and cattle farming is well documented and awareness of this is continually increasing. The plant-based seafood market is tipped to grow 28% over the next decade, which shows what direction the consumer demand is moving in. Pretty soon, plant-based tuna could become the norm.