If health concerns about traditional meat consumption, such as heart disease and LDL cholesterol, are driving the consumer to switch to vegetarian counterparts, it’s environmental issues, particularly poaching, that are driving the latest craze for seafood alternatives — $175 million has been invested. In the sector globally in 2021, the Good Food Institute showed a 92% increase over the previous year.
Current Foods, a plant-based tuna and salmon startup that promises higher scalability than farmed meat and price parity with traditional seafood, has closed a $18 million seed round led by Silicon Valley’s early adopters and cultural taste makers, which includes Sports and music.
These investors include GreatPoint Ventures managing partner Ray Lane, Union Grove Venture Partners, Electric Feel Ventures and Astanor Ventures as well as 12-time NBA All-Star CP3, also known as Chris Paul.
Launched by entrepreneur Jacek Bruce who has worked in the alternative protein business for the past decade, along with Chief Technology Officer Ron Shigeta and Chief Scientific Officer Sonya Hurtado, Current Foods’ main tuna products are primarily available through B2B across foodservice and fine dining locations, Including celebrity chef Matthew Kinney’s restaurants.
In a comment provided via email, Austin Rosen, founder of Electric Feel Entertainment and Electric Feel Ventures, points out how his fund is set up “based on investing in companies that move the needle forward.” He said, “Existing Foods, among our other companies that are better for you and better for the wallet, are doing just that. We are excited to support their expansion and help revive a new generation of foods that consumers already love.”
Eric Arcampo, co-founder and partner at Astanor Ventures, adds that Current Foods can deliver taste and texture while providing a real solution to today’s environmental and health crises. “Across all of these factors, salmon and tuna in current foods clearly outperform other products in their class,” said Archampo. “We are very impressed with the rapid progress that Jacek, Sonia and the team have made in the past two years and we couldn’t be more excited to support them in this next chapter of development.”
Price parity and similar function with seafood
The Current Foods team emphasizes that the newly raised capital will further support the launch of retail smoked salmon, global expansion into the Japanese market, and the continuous improvement of the company’s products. The goal is to achieve a large share in the seafood market, around 50%.
Salmon and tuna are big markets, so growing [rather than branching out into other seafood categories] “It’s a big focus for us right now,” Prus told me recently during a Zoom call, adding how the ingredients used to make Current Foods are similar to Beyond Meat with proteins that have been processed differently to mimic the texture of seafood.
“Our first ingredient is water, and the second is pea protein, but process it in a different way [plant-based] Ground beef protein, Bruce explained. Then the fats come from the sunflower and algae oils that actually give our products omega-3 and omega-3 DHA – the nutritional benefits seafood is known for. We’ve also designed our product to work in a similar way: our cholesterol-free products are high in fiber and lower in sodium than regular smoked salmon.
As an early supporter of Beyond Meat, Lin notes how Current Foods reflects what he believes is the most exciting change taking place in food innovation – the reinvention of food itself. “We feel we’ve invested beyond meat from seafood, to expand the runway for wild tuna, salmon and other ocean predatory species for their vital protein supply for humans and non-humans,” he said.
He adds that general consumer awareness towards environmental protection has increased since the introduction of alternative protein to the market, and alternative seafood companies such as Current Foods will play a critical role in improving sustainability and ocean health. “As more and more people on Earth eat the foods we love, we’re paying the ultimate price: global warming, declining health, and dwindling sources of protein,” Lin said.
The skyrocketing price of seafood in the US due to inflation could also benefit the alternative seafood sector. Recent data from IRI and 210 Analytics showed fresh seafood prices rose 12.1% on average year-over-year to $8.51 per unit in March 2022. Bruce said: “Seafood is by far the largest price increase segment due to having such The supply chain is wild, but we can afford to grow our business with good margins.”
Current Foods’ near-term plan is to make tuna available in more restaurants and locations easily accessible to shoppers, and to continue to expand its salmon business through direct contact with consumers and retailers.
“Our products will get better and better,” Bruce added. “In the future, we will also launch a salmon steak that you can cook at home.”