There are thousands of species of shrimp in the world that contribute to a $9 billion commercial market. Loosely classified, there are pink, white, brown and red shrimp. Now there’s one more: Plant-based shrimp. But don’t choke on your scampi yet.
New Wave Foods announced on Thursday $18 million in new funding led by New Enterprise Associates and Evolution VC Partners. Tyson Foods invested in the 5-year-old company in 2019 and is a minority parnter.
“Consumers want this,” said Gregg Smith, a New Wave board member and CEO of Evolution VC Partners. “New Wave Foods is the ‘Beyond Meat’ of shrimp and shellfish. I haven’t seen anyone else create the same quality of product and ability to closely replicate the taste, snap and texture of shrimp.”
According to New Wave, the faux shrimp is 100% plant-based (think seaweed), sustainable, vegetarian, kosher and contains zero cholesterol.
“We have deemed 2021 the year of the shrimp,” New Wave CEO Mary McGovern told Fastcompany.com. “We’re going to come in and we’re going to own it, with two sizes, breaded, sauced — all the ways that food service operators are looking to service shrimp and all the ways consumers are looking to have it served, we’re on it.”
The average American eats 4 pounds of shrimp annually. And New Wave Foods is targeting the restaurant market first.
“Food service has 80% of shrimp consumption, so that’s clearly the place for us to go,” McGovern said.
Shrimp are currently both farmed and caught in the wild. Both methods create issues of sustainability. When shrimp are farmed, mangrove forests are jeopardized, destroying crucial habitats for young fish. When caught wild, there are issues with the unintentional capture of species other than shrimp.
Also, the shrimp industry is burdened with human rights issues, including slavery, according to an Associated Press investigation in 2015. Some shrimp markets in Thailand were using slaves to peel shrimp that eventually were sold to major U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and restaurants like Red Lobster and Olive Garden.
For American consumers, 90% of the shrimp they eat is imported, mostly from southeast Asia and Central America.
Next up for New Wave Foods: Plant-based lobster, scallops, and crab.
Photos via TechCrunch (cover), The Atlantic
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