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Swiss retail giant Migros is making a bet on Aqua Cultured Foods’ microbial fermentation seafood alternatives.
Aqua Cultured Foods, the startup developing whole muscle cuts of seafood through microbial fermentation, is now teaming up with Migros, Switzerland’s largest retailer. As part of the collaboration, the supermarket giant will be assessing consumer acceptance of Aqua’s novel tuna and whitefish alternatives and its potential to disrupt the seafood market in Europe.
Aqua’s fermentation-derived seafood
Aqua Cultured Foods first debuted what it says is the world’s first whole-muscle cut seafood analogue developed using microbial fermentation earlier this year. The food tech, headquartered in Chicago, “grows” its alternatives through novel fermentation technology, which enables the creation of realistic fillets.
This makes its substitutes stand out from other seafood alternatives on the market, which tend to come in formats like shredded tuna or breaded chunks. And investors are keen on Aqua’s solution to the “white space” in the whole-muscle cut seafood category, recently pouring $2.1 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed, one of the largest rounds of its kind to date in the bio-fermentation space.
The first products that Aqua is set to launch on the market are sushi-quality filets of tuna and whitefish, as well as shrimp and calamari alternatives.
Partnership with Migros
Now, collaborating with Migros, Aqua’s products are going to be put to the test. Switzerland’s largest retailer will be assessing Swiss consumer acceptance of Aqua’s fermentation-derived sea food alternatives, and will also be “exploring new business opportunities” for the two companies.
Migros senior project manager Daniel Koch described Aqua’s technology as “exciting” and “can revolutionise the seafood category throughout the food industry”.
“The Swiss market welcomes food tech, and we are ready to introduce the region to the future of alternative proteins,” he added. The partnership with Migros came out of Swiss incubator Kickstart 2021, which Aqua was recently accepted into, gaining the chance to work with large European food companies like Migros and Coop.
Aqua says that with Migros on board and fuelled by its recent pre-seed financing, it is racing to scale production and build up its infrastructure to begin launching its first products on the market by 2022.
According to the food tech, its products are non-GMO and will boast 18-20 grams of protein per serving. It will also be high in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, while containing no sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol—rivalling the nutritional profile of real cod, without the environmental impact associated with commercial fishing.
With more than 4 in 10 global consumers adopting a flexitarian diet for health and sustainability reasons, many established food companies are looking to pivot towards alternative protein solutions and partner with startups. One recent report says that around 30% of the biggest food firms, such as Nestlé and Unilever, are actively making the shift to alt-proteins.
All images courtesy of Aqua Cultured Foods.