Plant-based seafood marketing and why it should worry you

Sunny Z. Akther

Veggie food, which tastes like seafood, is good to be promoted if one wants to, but it should not be done at the expense of aquaculture. New investments need to be backed by purpose and not just for short term gains.

Alternate seafood or veggie seafood, as I call it, a new food industry that is often talked about in the media, and there is a growing niche among young food consumers who are looking presumably for alternate seafood options. They have been told by the media that the seafood that comes from the ocean or that has been grown in the net cages via aquaculture, is not a sustainable way to produce food. They are told that real seafood is full of antibiotics, chemicals, diseases, and that this is a bad way of producing food.

The marketers of so-called “alternate seafood” paint themselves as saviors of the ocean, and claim that if you eat this new “kind of seafood”, made from plants, then you will be a just and conscious human. Someone who eats healthy and harmless seafood alternatives in the bliss that they are not damaging the seas.

Many of your readers, might feel the same as me that we are working in an industry that takes pride in producing sustainable and healthy food. People need seafood from aquaculture because it is the best way to produce healthy food in a sustainable way. But there is a faction within the seafood industry who don’t see things in the same way.

They are riding the bandwagon or the marketing wave and promoting these kinds of alternative seafoods. These new products are made with a few plant-based ingredients. Chemicals (good ones according to them) are added to make them taste and look like seafood.

Is this is really a healthy trend? Are they really sincere about the seafood industry if they are promoting trends that have little to do with sustainable and healthy food? What benefits will this chemical filled plant-based ingredients-based products will have on consumers in the long run?

Playing both David and Goliath
Why are these players on both sides of the table e.g. seafood industry and the upcoming plant-based seafood industry?

Let’s take the Ireland-based Hatch Accelerator as a classic example. Hatch Accelerator’s subsidiary Hatch Blue bills itself as the world’s first sustainable aquaculture accelerator investing in start-ups in the seafood industry, but they want to invest in plant-based seafood or real seafood?”

It’s like someone saying, “we will provide you both opportunities, whatever can make us a lot of money in a quick way, but who cares about the long-term impact on the aquaculture industry?” They may as well say: “This is what the consumer wants, but where is the purpose and long-term perspective on consumer health?”

How about educating the consumer and telling them what is good for them in reality? Will getting on the bandwagon serve the health of Homo Sapiens in the long run? How about telling the end consumers the complete story?

Why it matters?
There are a lot of people who make life or career choices based on the meaning behind what they do. It really matters how these big players operate or think about the future of food because it affects the whole of society’s health and welfare.

The complete story is different
Cell-based seafood is a gimmick of another level. They are marketing themselves as the saviours of the planet and oceans and everything in between. Their marketing is based on adversarial marketing. If you study some of these companies’ promotional material, you will see that they often say traditional fish production is full of antibiotics and they are raised in dirty waters.

The average consumer knows very little about their food system and how much they are been taken over by this type of adversarial marketing. This narrative must change, and it must change by those who promote sustainable aquaculture.

Not at the cost of aquaculture
Veggie food which tastes like seafood is good and should be promoted if one wants to, but it should not be done at the cost of aquaculture. By framing aquaculture in a negative light, it may well attract investments on a short-term basis, but if you are here for the long run, it is not a good idea to demonise existing aquaculture production for the short term gains.


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