Toronto-based New School Foods has released its first product: a plant-based whole-cut salmon filet it says looks, cooks, tastes, and flakes just like conventional salmon.
New School Foods’ vegan fish release comes on the heels of $12 million in Seed funding from Lever VC, Blue Horizon, Hatch, Good Startup, Alwyn Capital, and grants from multiple Canadian government grant agencies including Protein Industry Canada.
New School says its whole-cut fish is made with plant fibers that replicate the diameter, length, strength, and structure of fish muscle fibers to deliver the same texture and mouthfeel of fish.
It joins a growing category of startups tackling whole-cut fish. Last summer, Revo Foods announced a 3D-printed whole cut salmon and Indian vegan seafood startup SeaSpire unveiled a plant-based snapper filet created using bio-printing.
There’s an increasing demand for seafood that’s free from heavy metals such as mercury. Consumers are also becoming concerned about microplastics in their seafood. Several studies have found microplastics in a range of seafood products including a number of fish species, scallops, and mussels.
New School Foods also says it has achieved a plant-based fish that comes in a raw state — a feat made possible by a cold-based processing technology. Most of the whole-cut plant-based options come to consumers pre-cooked.
The company’s unique scaffolding technology uses directional freezing to create scaffolds that mimic muscle fibers and connective tissues found in meat and fish. They’re then infused with different proteins and flavors that mimic the taste, texture, structure, and cooking process of live meat and fish.
‘The next frontier of meat alternatives’
“The next frontier of meat alternatives is whole cuts, and from day one we understood that New School Foods needed to solve two heavily connected issues: the quality of the meat alternatives in-market and the limited toolkit our industry uses to produce them,” Chris Bryson, CEO and founder of New School Foods, said in a statement.
“What’s generally available for consumers now are rubbery, ground, pre-cooked products that will not convince the average customer to change their lifelong habits,” he said.
New School says its tech was designed to be scalable from day one; its production technologies will allow it to maintain its texture, mouthfeel, and macrostructure at maximum production capacities.
“We invested in New School Foods because they recognized that the existing production technologies in the plant-based meat industry are insufficient for creating a whole-cut product that consumers genuinely want to eat,” said Nick Cooney, General Partner at Lever Ventures. “Their technology is unlike anything else we’ve seen in the industry in terms of truly mimicking the texture, mouthfeel, and experience of cooking and eating whole cuts of meat.”
New School says the next frontier in meat successors is whole cuts. They represent the majority of animal meat sales but have proven challenging for the plant-based sector to mimic connective tissue, muscle fibers, and other microstructures in meat.
Consumers in North America could get a chance to taste New School Foods’ fish later this year; the company says it expects to launch its filet in select restaurants following the launch of a chef-only pilot program kickstarting its commercial efforts.