Feb. 21, 2022 — Food tech startup Aqua Cultured Foods has developed “calamari fries,” its first commercial product from a new microbial fermentation technology. The product gives a mycoprotein (mushroom protein) with a realistic appearance, taste and texture with high nutritional value. The proprietary method offers a sushi-grade, whole-muscle cut seafood alternative.
In addition to calamari, Aqua Cultured Foods develops animal-free shrimp, scallops, and tuna and whitefish fillets.
“We are moving to an accelerated timeline from the R&D stage to commercialization, and now we will focus on scaling, strategic alliances and go-to-market partners such as restaurant chains,” says Anne Palermo, CEO of Aqua Cultured Food. .
“Reaching this milestone ahead of schedule is a win for the alternative seafood and alternative protein industries, and for us as a company,” she said.
In November 2021, the company signed a Proof of Concept (POC) with Migros, Switzerland’s largest retailer, to develop its seafood alternatives with authentic taste and texture.
The collaboration included assessing Swiss consumer acceptance of Aqua’s fermented seafood alternatives and exploring new business opportunities in Switzerland.
Alt-seafood on an upward trajectory
The alternative protein burger hit the market in 2019, with chicken alternatives the year after, making it a great time to see alternative protein seafood catch on.
In the early stages of the movement’s development, Swiss flavor giant Givaudan presented research in collaboration with the University of California, USA, highlighting the opportunities and challenges for makers of seafood alternatives .
While the same macro-economic trends are driving the meat substitutes industry, the interest in fish and shellfish alternatives reflects some of the specific challenges of the fish and shellfish industry, the company reported.
US alternative seafood sales grew 23% in 2020, and the market is expected to reach US$1.3 billion over the next decade. The profitability of alternative seafood is driven by consumer and food industry awareness of unsustainable practices in the conventional seafood supply chain and the degradation of ocean ecosystems.
Fermentation uses a fraction of the resources of traditional aquaculture. Aqua Cultured Foods has refined the science of fermentation for fish and shellfish analogues.
The calamari alternative contains around 80 calories per 100g serving, 20g of protein and around 12g of fiber and sodium, saturated fat, omega 3 or cholesterol. The nutritional values are similar to those of cod, which contains 18 g of protein, 0.7 g of fat, almost 43 mg of cholesterol, 54 mg of sodium and no fibre.
On average, 100g of conventional calamari contains 90 calories, 16g of protein, no fiber, 45mg of sodium, 0.4g of saturated fat and 263mg of cholesterol.
Taste and texture
Aqua’s fermentation methods do not use animal-derived inputs, alteration or genetic modification and can be marketed as non-GMO. Executive chef Johnny Carino helped lock in the “calamari fries” formula to improve texture and preparation.
“As you bite down, you get an immediate crunch that combines with the realistic, slightly chewy texture of the calamari. It looks and acts like squid. There hasn’t been a learning curve like you might expect with a completely new product or ingredient,” says Carino.
The company’s goal is to alleviate global challenges such as overfishing, climate change and to feed a world population reaching the seven billion mark. Investors in Aqua Cultured Foods include Supply Change Capital, Aera VC, HPA, Sustainable Food Ventures, Hanfield Venture Partners, Lifely VC, Conscience VC, Kingfisher Capital, Big Idea Ventures and Gonzalo Ramirez Martina.
Aqua Cultured Foods calamari fries will be available through strategic partners later this year.
In other industry developments, Planteneers has developed a range of textured vegetable proteins and plant-based binders called fiildTex and fiildFish to help manufacturers catch the wave of seafood with no catch to vegan alternatives to sushi. , salmon and tuna. The company unveiled a plant-based salmon fillet as part of its growing portfolio of fish alternatives.
By Inga de Jong
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