- Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch plant-based seafood products, announced Jan Tharp, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, is the newest member of its board of directors.
- The appointment comes shortly after Bumble Bee announced its partnership with Good Catch to help bring plant-based fish to consumers nationwide.
- Tharp has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry, including more than a decade in seafood. Gathered Foods CEO and Co-Founder Chris Kerr said in a release that Tharp's voice and knowledge will help them make plant-based seafood readily available as the "demand for protein alternatives is rapidly changing and evolving in the food industry."
As plant-based products make waves, more traditional protein companies are making changes to accommodate them.
Last month, Bumble Bee and Good Catch announced their partnership. As Tharp joins Gathered Foods' board of directors, the seafood giant is getting an even bigger foothold in the plant-based food company. Bumble Bee was already planning to leverage its sales, distribution and logistics expertise to get Good Catch to consumers at affordable prices. Having its CEO on the board will help make sure that happens.
While the two companies remain independent, the release said Tharp's addition to the Gathered Foods' board ensures that both Good Catch and Bumble Bee "continue to grow in a sustainable, innovative direction."
This partnership and board position could be a positive step for Bumble Bee. The seafood giant has struggled in recent years, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November. It came to that point following a guilty plea in a tuna price-fixing case in 2017. The company was fined $25 million, and then entangled in related civil lawsuits.
On top of the company's legal and financial troubles, there has been less consumer demand for canned tuna in recent years. Younger generations tend to view canned foods as not fresh and traditional protein as not sustainable.
Tharp took over as CEO of Bumble Bee in 2018, after former executive Chris Lischewski stepped down following his indictment and eventual guilty verdict in the price-fixing case. Before she was the top executive, Tharp served as the company’s chief operating officer.
Tharp's experience and resources could help Good Catch become a household name and bring more people to plant-based fish. Bumble Bee's seafood and protein products are common on grocery shelves in the U.S., Canada and more than 50 markets globally, sold under brands including Bumble Bee, Brunswick, Clover Leaf, Snow’s, Wild Selections and Beach Cliff.
While Bumble Bee has faced hurdles, Good Catch has excelled. Good Catch was founded in 2016 and uses a blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans, with umami flavor from seaweed and algae extracts, to make a product similar to tuna fish. Good Catch raised $32 million in January from big name funders, including Lightlife parent company Greenleaf Foods and General Mills venture arm 301 Inc. The company said it would use those funds to expand distribution in North America and Europe, enter Asia, launch new products and enter foodservice. Gathered Foods also has a new 42,500-square-foot plant in Ohio that employs more than 80 people.
Although Good Catch's success would likely give Bumble Bee more competition for its tuna, the company seems to be looking to turn over a new leaf. Bumble Bee was officially bought by Taiwan-based FCF Fishery for $928 million in January. And with the tuna company's heavy involvement with this plant-based seafood brand, it could mean Bumble Bee may look to develop its own plant-based products in the future, or could be interested in acquiring Good Catch down the line.