The plant-based alternative seafood company New Wave Foods recently released its seaweed-based shrimp to restaurants across the United States. The company says the product, which is made with sustainably sourced seaweed and mung bean, can be sauteed, fried, or grilled like ocean shrimp.
According to the Good Food Institute, the plant-based alternatives market is now worth US$7 billion — up US$2.5 billion from 2019. Plant-based seafood alone is projected to reach US$1.3 billion by 2031, according to a recent report by the market research firm Fact.MR.
“This isn’t a fad — it’s a whole movement,” New Wave Foods Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Michelle Wolf tells Food Tank.
Wolf says New Wave chose to create a shrimp alternative, in particular, because the shrimp industry holds great opportunity for change. “Shrimp is the most-consumed seafood in the United States, by about a factor of two, and it also has some of the biggest issues from a supply-chain standpoint,” she says.
“Since [shrimp] is such a high-demand product, we’ve had to resort to a lot of unsavory practices. A lot of the shrimp in the U.S. — about 90 percent — is imported, and a lot of those imports come from the coast of Southeast Asia.”
Wolf says shrimp farms have decimated mangroves in these regions, which play an important role in sequestering carbon and safeguarding against rising sea levels. As much as 38 percent of global mangrove loss can be attributed to shrimp farming, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation.
Wolf notes that shrimp farming emits more greenhouse gasses than many kinds of meat, and that farms often use antibiotics and pesticides. The industry is also rife with human rights abuses.
New Wave hopes its shrimp will steer customers away from destructively farmed seafood. But Wolf says the story behind their product doesn’t matter if it doesn’t taste and feel like shrimp. “You can’t talk about nutrition and sustainability without talking about taste,” she says.
Wolf also talks with Food Tank about why New Wave chose to launch in restaurants and what it means to receive attention from corporations like Tyson.
Watch the full interview below.