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Plant-based seafood maker Ocean Hugger Foods has announced its return, partnering up with Bangkok-based Nove Foods to roll out its products globally in 2021. The company, which was forced to shut down its operations due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, will work with Nove Foods, whose distribution spans 30 countries, to reenter the alternative seafood space with an “expanded portfolio” in both retail and foodservice channels.
New York-based startup Ocean Hugger Foods is relaunching its business via a new joint venture with Thai food manufacturer and distributor Nove Foods, a subsidiary of NR Instant Produce Public Company Limited (NRF), who has recently repositioned its business strategy to tap into the plant-based food trend.
With its export network of 30 countries, Nove Foods will work alongside Ocean Hugger to relaunch an “expanded portfolio of plant-based seafood products” into the global market in late 2021, in both retail and foodservice channels, the startup revealed on Monday (March 1). Around three-quarters of the products will be geared towards retail, while the rest will serve foodservice customers.
“We couldn’t be more excited about our new partnership with Nove Foods. With our beloved brand and products, and Nove Foods’ strategic capabilities, the sky is the limit for this company,” said David Benzaquen, CEO Ocean Hugger Foods, who co-founded the brand with certified master chef James Corwell.
With our beloved brand and products, and Nove Foods’ strategic capabilities, the sky is the limit for this company.David Benzaquen, Co-Founder & CEO, Ocean Hugger Foods
In a statement, chairman of Nove Foods Dan Pathomvanich said that the collaboration to “spread their award-winning products in furtherance of our shared mission” is aligned with its parent company NRF’s goal of “transforming the food system”.
Ocean Hugger Foods first entered the alternative seafood space in 2016, with a mission to offer sustainable alternatives to much-loved fish products that are causing devastation to the oceans and the environment. By 2020, the business was selling its flagship product Ahimi, a tomato-based raw tuna analogue, and Unami, an eggplant-based substitute for unagi eel, via foodservice companies across the U.S. and U.K., Canada and Carribean markets.
Amid the enormous hit the foodservice took as a result of the pandemic, Ocean Hugger Foods made the decision to pause its operations in June 2020, a move it said was aimed to “reposition the company for success in a newly shaped post pandemic food industry.”
We are thrilled to partner with the visionary team at Ocean Hugger to spread their award-winning products.Dan Pathomvanich, Chairman, Nove Foods
Pathomvanich said in a press statement about the partnership that NRF stands as Thailand’s first “purpose-driven company” to go public on the Thailand Stock Exchange. Media outlets have previously misrepresented the company as a dedicated plant-based firm, despite the company also carrying a line of animal-based products in addition to a range of plant-based sauces, condiments and jackfruit-based meals.
While not fully plant-based, the major shift in priority by the Thai food conglomerate indicates that mass demand can no longer be ignored, with the risk of missing out on the huge business opportunities to be made in the plant-based sector – which is showing no signs of slowing down, especially in the alternative seafood space.
NRF isn’t alone either, with fellow industry giant Thai Union Group, one of the world’s biggest seafood producers that owns the likes of John West and Ayam, recently revealing its plans to launch plant-based shrimp in 2021.
Other conglomerates have already officially entered the space, including Swiss conglomerate Nestlé who debuted its vegan tuna in 2020, followed by major European plant protein supplier Schouten, who rolled out its “TuNo” product last month.
Seafood giant Bumble Bee Foods, on the other hand, has taken to backing plant-based startup Good Catch Foods to widen its net and capture the rising numbers of flexitarians and vegans.
Lead image courtesy of Ocean Hugger Foods / designed by Green Queen Media.