The plant-based seafood space has seen massive growth in recent years as grocers and consumers alike place a higher importance on buying sustainable items.
Good Catch was the first vegan seafood brand to launch in 2021, with a Long John Silver’s partnership to boot. Next, May Wah Vegetarian Market came out with vegan items like lobster, squid and abalone made from isolated soy protein, seaweed and vegetarian flavor.
Konscious Foods, based in Vancouver and founded in 2021, has now launched its plant-based sushi line nationwide in Whole Foods, the company announced Monday. Konscious’s product line of plant-based frozen sushi includes nigiri and poke bowls, made with clean ingredients such as konjac plant, pea fiber, Jasberry rice, and organic red quinoa, as well as organic fruits and vegetables.
Created by classically trained French chef Yves Potvin, the brand is looking to create “a good for you, good for the planet and most importantly, good tasting,” sushi alternative, Potvin told Food Dive in an interview.
“It’s the first of its kind, full line of frozen sushi, nigiri and poke bowls,” he said, “what is also important to mention is that it doesn’t cost any more than regular sushi does. These products cost the same as traditional sushi.”
Plant-based seafood on the rise
The plant-based seafood space was an $800 million market in 2022, and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% from 2023 until 2032, according to Global Market Insights. Meanwhile, as of 2022, over 90% of fisheries were classified as “overfished or harvested at maximum capacity,” and “one-third of all fish stocks are being depleted faster than they can replenish,” according to the Good Food Institute.
With the launch of this product line, Konscious Foods is entering a giant whitespace in the market, according to Maya Benami, PhD microbiologist and alternative protein consultant.
“Raw seafood replicated in the plant-based space is almost non existent except for a few companies,” she told Food Dive in an interview.
In order for these companies to be successful, they need to be extremely conscious of their consumer, she said, “I think in general, the alternative protein market has not really done a great job of being able to speak to their target markets because is this really only for vegans? Why should the average seafood eater be switching? What is the incentive there,” said Benami.
Konscious Foods is looking to overcome that common challenge within the alternative protein space, and especially the niche space that is plant-based seafood. “Taste is the number one thing for me,” said Potvin.
A classically trained French chef, Potvin prides himself on being extremely mindful of the quality, presentation and tasting experience of his food, he told Food Dive.
“Since I've been on this journey. I probably went to 400 sushi restaurants, and tasted a countless amount of variations” he said, “for us, it is really about the texture,” when it comes to replicating that of traditional sushi, said Potvin.
The journey to launching in a major health food chain like that of Whole Foods’s magnitude was no easy feat. One of the major challenges was creating a relationship with retailers after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of how these types of deals are done, said Potvin.
“Because of COVID, most of the buyers don’t want to see you anymore, they just want to receive samples and make their own judgments,” said Potvin, “Pre-COVID you were able to get an appointment and make a presentation. This was a little bit more challenging because there’s nothing like building a relationship,” he said.
Another unique aspect of Konscious Foods’s sushi when compared to regular sushi is that it is easy to bring on the go.
Konscious Foods’s products can be found in the freezer section, colorfully packaged with photos showing what the products look like.
“Because we have unique packaging and a unique brand offering, we’re not just offering another chicken nugget, we’re offering something that is very in demand especially in the younger generation,” said Potvin, “It is perfect for bringing to work, like it truly is very convenient,” he said.
The brand is also patent pending, for the ability to go from freezer to plate in eight minutes.
All of the products are priced between $7.99 and $8.99, and are non-GMO and gluten free.