Report: Alternative Proteins Could Be Key in Sustainably Scaling the Seafood Industry

A new report by McKinsey has found that plant-based, cultivated, and fermented fish alternatives could play an important role in scaling up the seafood industry.

Despite the fact that more than 85% of global fish stocks are fully exploited or overexploited, demand for seafood continues to rise worldwide. While aquaculture has increased seafood production, it has not been able to keep up with demand, meaning other solutions are needed.

“Learning from previous strides in alternative proteins will be critical”

Alternative seafood does not have to contend with some of the challenges faced by conventional seafood producers; for example, a limited number of licenses are issued for fishing and aquaculture due to sustainability issues, whereas this does not apply to alt seafood. Additionally, conventional seafood can contain unsafe levels of mercury, and may need to be transported long distances at considerable cost. On the other hand, alt seafood can be produced more locally.

The types of seafood with the greatest potential for alternative protein production are said to be shrimp, tilapia, tunas, salmonids, and lobster. However, alt seafood producers will need to bring prices down to what consumers are accustomed to paying for conventional seafood. Initially, this could be achieved by targeting higher-end species such as bluefin tuna, which can cost as much as $200 per pound. Meeting consumer expectations with regard to taste will also be important, and producers will need to take into account the considerable variations between species.

E-FISHient Protein
© E-FISHient Protein

“Significant potential impact”

Different types of alternative seafood have different advantages; plant-based products use widely available ingredients and do not usually require regulatory approval, fermented seafood can be produced quickly and is protein-dense, and cultivated products have the potential to closely match the taste and nutritional value of conventional seafood. Currently, only plant-based seafood is on the market, with minced products such as fish sticks more common than whole-cut options. Extensive R&D will be needed to improve the properties of alt seafood and gain consumer acceptance.

Encouragingly, global investments in seafood alternatives reached a record high last year, while sales are also seeing high year-over-year growth.

“Clearly, alternative seafood offers significant potential impact,” says the report. “It can not only reduce the environmental impact of fishing and reduce pressure on fisheries but also provide a healthy alternative and expand access to protein in a more efficient manner. Understanding the barriers to scaling and learning from previous strides in alternative proteins will be critical to capitalizing on potential sources of advantage.”

Read the full report here:

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