Leading Seafood Producer Thai Union Launches Plant-Based Shrimp

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Leading global shrimp producer Thai Union has launched a plant-based shrimp product as it expands its efforts to meet the demand for vegan seafood.

Adding to its roster of alternative seafood, the new OMG Meat shrimp joins Thai Union’s plant-based tuna, as well as crab meat and dumplings, and fish nuggets.

The company announced its plans to release the shrimp last year.

“We have had consumers come to us and say, ‘I know you are an expert in seafood and shrimp – I would like to have a shrimp tempura, but not containing shrimp’,” Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, Thai Union’s innovation director said last year. “They come to us because they see we understand product quality, its functional properties, characteristics, taste, and sensory texture.”

Plant-based shrimp

In a statement on the Thai Union website following its vegan crab launch last year, the company says the move to seafood alternatives is aimed at meeting the “surging demand in Asia for healthy, environmental-conscious and innovative protein products.”

Thai Union, the world’s largest tuna canner and parent of the popular Chicken of the Sea tuna brand, says it developed the shrimp at its Global Innovation Center with the goal of creating a plant-based protein that “tastes and smells like meat.”

Thai Union scientists developing plant-based shrimp | Courtesy

“Young consumers in Asia are increasingly adopting a more flexitarian eating style—eating a mixture of plant-based foods and meats in a more flexible manner. They are interested in exploring food for better health while also caring for the planet, with plant-based protein producing less carbon. The launch of OMG Meat supports Thai Union’s commitment to ‘Healthy Living, Healthy Oceans’,” the company said.

While vegan seafood options including tuna, crab cakes, and fish sticks are on the rise in supermarkets and restaurants around the world, plant-based shrimp is still relatively obscure.

Shrimp is the leading seafood product by sales in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. Globally the shrimp market size was estimated at $14.31 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $14.77 billion in 2022.

Earlier this year, Thai Union brought its plant-based tuna to nearly 400 supermarkets in Europe.

Courtesy

Thai Union has been exploring options that go beyond its plant-based offerings, too. Last year, its venture fund participated in California-based cultured seafood brand BlueNalu’s Series B funding raise.

Investing in the future of food

In May, Thai Union invested $10 million (CAD) in Mara Renewables Corporation. It’s a leader in developing vegan omega-fatty-acid-rich algae oils that could have applications for Thai Union’s plant-based products.

“As an industry leader in innovation and sustainability, we are committed to our Ingredients business which valorizes our co-products into natural and nutritional ingredients such as DHA-rich tuna oil,” Thiraphong Chansiri, President and CEO of Thai Union, said in a statement. 

“Our strategic partnership with Mara further builds on this business by creating opportunities to jointly expand our product portfolios, grow our global presence, and accelerate go-to-market initiatives. We’re excited to partner with Mara and together provide nutritious and sustainably sourced DHA omega-3 fatty acids to consumers worldwide.”

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