Op Ed: Marissa Bronfman Leads Women in Alt Seafood – Vegan

Marisa Bronfman is a serial entrepreneur, speaker and business advisor to food founders and impact investors. She is passionate about helping people build, grow, support and invest in women-owned and plant-based businesses and is excited to help accelerate the alternative seafood space.

Inspired and encouraged by the number of leading women in the space, Marissa believes “there has never been a better time to start, scale or invest in a vegan seafood company”.

Alternative Seafood: A New Wave of Women-Led Opportunities

By Marisa Bronfman

It’s a very exciting time for seafood analogs, a relatively small but fast-growing category of alternative proteins, with many new companies and technological developments being led by women around the world.

At a time when our oceans are being decimated by human exploitation and climate change, global fish stocks are in rapid decline, and seafood shows high levels of microplastics, antibiotics, pesticides, hormones and other harmful chemicals, we must accelerate to meet growing demand and rapidly Development and expansion of plant-based, fermented and farmable sustainable seafood options to help the growing population balloon to 10 billion by 2050.

Aqua Cultured Foods has closed a $5.5 million seed round to launch its seafood alternative
© Aqua Cultured Foods

While female founders across all industries received a whopping 1.9% of all venture capital dollars last year, I’m heartened to see the number of women leading successful seafood analog companies at a much higher ratio than what I see in alternative meats. Research shows that female-founded companies perform more than 60% better than all male-founded teams and generate a 35% higher return on investment – ​​we know that investing in women is simply good business.

“Research Shows Women-Founded Companies Do More Than 60% Better”

The Women of Alternative Seafood is passionate about sustainability, removes sensitive animals from the food system, and is dedicated to developing clean-label products, whether plant-based, fermented or cell-based, that are nutritious and delicious for health-conscious consumers. About taste, texture and price.

Vegan Salmon Sandwiches by Save the Sea Foods
© Save Da Sea Foods

I’m convinced that alt seafood will avoid many of the pitfalls it has suffered recently – including inflated valuations, long ingredient lists and consumer concerns over highly processed products – in large part because there are so many bright and passionate women working in the space.

Women to watch: Canada

Here in Canada, women are creating alternative seafood from coast to coast. I’m calling home now Gulten Izmirlioglu leads R&D for SmallFood, a Halifax-based biomass fermentation company that discovered a unique microalgae with high-quality protein rich in omega-3 DHA and antioxidants and a natural marine flavor.

Canadian biotech company Smallwood has announced a new manufacturing facility for its vegan seafood ingredients.
© Smallfood

I recently toured their impressive facility and got a glimpse of their delicious fish cakes, read more about it here. Since their germs come from the sea, their vegetarian products are officially recognized and called “seafood”!

“I am delighted to see the number of women leading successful seafood analog companies”

On the West Coast, Aki Kaltenbach, the Victoria-based founder of Save the Sea, grew up working in her family’s Japanese restaurant and now makes smoked salmon and tuna salad from carrots and jackfruit. In Toronto, my hometown, Alexandra Bergqvist-Terplawi spins her premium tinned seafood with Seed to Surf, which recently introduced smoked whitefish and snow crab using celery root and enoki mushrooms. Both companies boast clean-label, plant-based products that taste delicious.

Women to watch: United States and worldwide

In the US and around the world, we’re seeing women-led alt seafood startups achieve significant milestones. Anne Palermo and Brittany Chibe, co-founders of US-based Aqua Cultured Foods, have developed the world’s first whole-muscle cut, sushi-quality, fungus-fermented seafood and successfully raised $5.5 in a seed round.

Pearlita is a plant-based oyster

Nikita Michelsen, who I met last year at the Vegan Women’s Summit, is developing plant-based and cell-based oysters as the founder and CEO of Raleigh-Durham Triangle-based Perlite. Mother-daughter duo Monica Talbert and Shelley Van Cleave, founders of Mind Blown, The Plant-Based Seafood Co., knew they had something special when local fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay couldn’t tell their new crab cakes were vegetarian.

They now offer shrimp, scallops and of course, crab cakes. If kelp is the new kale, we have Aqua’s Courtney Boyd Myers to thank. As founder and CEO, he’s on a mission to replace factory farming with regenerative sea farming, offering kelp-based burgers, ground meat and crab cakes.

Crab Cake Goddess
© God

It’s safe to say that we’ve all admired Plantish’s whole cut salmon fillets out of Israel, but did you know that their R&D is led by co-founder Dr. Hila Elimelech? In Singapore, Shiok Meat co-founders Dr. Sandhya Sriram and Dr. Ka Yi Ling raised $30M as they developed cell-based farmed seafood including shrimp, crab and lobster.

Australia’s Boldly Foods, led by CEO Anand Bhavani, recently debuted their plant-based seafood at a food festival in Miami and is officially launching their calamari rings, tuna sashimi, jumbo shrimp and more later at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. months

More than three billion people around the world rely on seafood as a significant source of protein, yet our planet cannot meet this growing demand. Traditional seafood has long enjoyed its “health limelight” with consumers, but recent developments in plant-based, fermentation and farming enable seafood analogs to meet or exceed the nutritional profile of traditional seafood, while bypassing harmful toxins and environmental degradation.

Boldly sushi range
© Bravely

With dozens of different species to consider (think salmon and tuna to lobster, oysters, octopus, and more), this space is much more diverse and thus significantly less competitive than alt meat, allowing many more brands to gain significant market share. And many future market leaders come forward.

I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity for alternative seafood right now and am encouraged by my work with food founders, impact investors and government agencies to spotlight, support and accelerate the development of this space. With an incredible proportion of the industry run by women, it’s safe to say there’s never been a better time to start, scale or invest in a vegan seafood company.

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