- Tuna giant Bumble Bee Foods is partnering with plant-based seafood brand Good Catch to help bring plant-based fish to consumers nationwide. According to a news release, Bumble Bee will leverage its sales, distribution and logistics expertise to get Good Catch to consumers at affordable prices.
- Bumble Bee is the first seafood brand to partner with a plant-based company. “It is critically important that as an industry we continue to find innovative solutions to decouple growth with environmental impact," Bumble Bee President and CEO Jan Tharp said in a statement. "Providing great-tasting alternative ways for consumers to enjoy ocean-inspired foods is a key pillar of our long-term commitment to ocean health.”
- The move is not an acquisition, though in an email to Food Dive, Bumble Bee EVP and Chief Growth Officer Todd Putman did not comment on whether there was a financial component to the partnership. The statement reinforced that Good Catch, a brand of Gathered Foods Corporation, is an independent company that will remain focused on developing and marketing plant-based seafood alternatives.
As the plant-based meat market is baited to move onto products that aren't hamburgers, Good Catch Foods is in position to do well in 2020.
So far, it has been a great year for the plant-based fish company. In January, Good Catch raised $32 million from a broad array of 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, open a manufacturing facility, launch new products and enter foodservice. At the time, Good Catch products were available at more than 4,500 stores across the United States and the company was about to move into the U.K.
While all of those goals could seem somewhat out of reach for a four-year-old company with $50.7 million in funding, this partnership with Bumble Bee can provide the means to do a lot of that expansion. After all, the tuna titan was founded 121 years ago and has numerous global contacts. The company's knowledge of the supply and marketing chain for tuna is invaluable, and can do much to get Good Catch in front of tuna consumers who are looking for another alternative.
Created by brothers Chad and Derek Sarno, Good Catch 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 that looks, tastes and behaves like tuna fish. Gathered Foods has a new 42,500-square-foot plant in central Ohio that opened this year and employs more than 80 people.
In terms of consumer trends, with its plant-based bona fides, Good Catch is on the way up. And Bumble Bee could use a win. The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November, was officially purchased in January by Taiwan-based FCF Fishery for $928 million. Bumble Bee found itself deep in the red through a guilty plea in a tuna price-fixing case in 2017. The company was fined $25 million — and then found itself also embroiled in related civil lawsuits, pushing it toward bankruptcy.
Waning consumer interest in canned tuna has contributed to Bumble Bee's woes. Tuna sales dropped 4% in volume between 2013 and October 2018, according to data from IRI. Canned foods tend to be seen by younger consumers as not as fresh. Tuna has faced significant challenges with millennials, many of whom may not even own can openers, tuna execs have said.
This partnership propels Bumble Bee into the present, where consumers are more interested in sustainable and innovative ways to feed themselves. While Bumble Bee as a company can use words on its packaging and in marketing campaigns to tell consumers about how much it cares about sustainable fishing, associating itself with a product that has no impact on the ocean goes further to prove it.
While this is partnership is the first of its kind in the plant-based fish segment, it's the type of agreement that others in the food business have entered in recent years. In many cases, cutthroat competition has been replaced by more thoughtful consideration of how companies that may have once been fighting over the same consumers could help one another.
Other partnerships have paid off. Soon after developing mung bean-based egg substitute Just Egg, Just partnered with Italian egg giant Eurovo, leveraging that company's knowledge of the egg consumer and supply chain in Europe. And animal-free dairy protein company Perfect Day partnered with international ingredients company Archer Daniels Midland to scale and distribute its products, which are expected to be available on the market this year.