Alt-Seafood Splash #4 - SeaSpire Inspires with Bioprinted Plant-Based Snapper
Meet the startup making tech to transcend alt-seafoods' texture barrier.
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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers! Who's hungry for a juicy tale about overcoming the BIGGEST challenge facing faux-fish?
Replicating fish texture has been a big blocker for the alt-seafood industry. Startup SeaSpire's patent-pending bioprinting tech promises to change this. Earlier this month, SeaSpire unveiled their plant-based snapper fish analogue, the first of its kind in the APAC region. Today their co-founder reveals his plans to hook the world with their ultra-realistic faux-fish.
Today’s post by sub-headings
Ask me anything!
SeaSpire’s Bioprinted Plant-Based Seafood
The challenges of marketing alt-seafood
Collaboration is key to expanding the alt-seafood market
The high potential markets around the world for alt-seafood
How to build an early market for faux-fish
SeaSpire’s insights about entering Japan
The Future of alt-seafood
Ask me anything!
We’re trying something new. Our interviewee is Varun Gadodia, the co-founder of SeaSpire. He will be answering your questions until the end of this week!
Please send us your questions! If you are inspired with a question while reading today’s article, please hit “reply” and send it to us in an email.
Varun is an expert in all things alt-seafood, bio-printing, and alt-proteins in APAC. Whatever your question, big or small, send it on and we’ll do our best to answer.
We’ll publish the questions we receive and Varun’s answers to them next week*. Please submit any questions by Sunday, June 26th.
*If we get a high volume of questions, please understand we may not be able to answer them all.
SeaSpire's Bioprinted Plant-Based Seafood
In 2021 Varun Gadodia co-founded SeaSpire. His mission was to conquer the emerging alt-seafood industry's Moby-Dick.
SeaSpire aspires to fill a "white space" in the alt-seafood market. Replicating the whole-muscle structure of fish using plant-based ingredients.
SeaSpire’s tech 3D prints whole muscle structures using clean-label plant-based feedstock.
Companies have been working on replicating the muscle structure of meat for a decade. And they only have to replicate one type of structure. Beef for example, or chicken. The muscle structure of fish differs by species. And no one has nailed the major white-fish and crustacean varieties like snapper, prawn or lobsters yet in a scalable way. That's where our bioprinting technology comes in. Using a cartridge of plant-based feedstock we can "print" realistic whole-cut fish.
We’re focussing on alt-snapper, white meat seafood that’s popular in Asia-pacific. We have lobster tail, crayfish and prawns in our pipeline. But first, we want to get one species done well and scale it before moving to another seafood product.
SeaSpire's vision is more than near-perfect fish texture. They're also aiming for distributed manufacturing.
Our vision is that supermarkets can manufacture our product on-site. In a storeroom for example.
Our tech's strong point is that it will localize food production. It uses little water and takes up little space. It takes different types of feedstock so we can use local ingredients. It’s more flexible than extrusion-based production which usually focuses on one type of product.
With tech this promising, it should be smooth sailing to market entry, right? But as Varun reveals, the alt-seas can be treacherous.
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Marketing Alt-Seafood is a challenge
SeaSpire is currently about a year away from commercialization. As much as scaling the tech is key, Varun is also focussing on the marketing of his products.
We’ve known for years that red meats aren’t good for us. But seafood is something consumers know is healthy. So it’s difficult to convince them to consume alt-seafood for health reasons. The sustainability route is promising but it's not a priority for all consumers.
We realize that millennials and gen-z are high potential markets. Younger generations are more sustainability-conscious. They also have time to adopt alt-seafood as a normal part of their diets in their youth. The promise of authentic texture is enough to get them to bite and stay hooked.
When marketing products across regions, localization is key. From country to country, region to region, the type of fish consumed differs. There’s also culture to consider when it comes to seafood. From fish and chips to sushi, every nation enjoys seafood differently.
This is where our distributed manufacturing model will reap rewards. We will manufacture our products using local ingredients. Of course, we will centralize the production of some core ingredients in India, China and New Zealand. But we want to cut inefficiencies in our supply chain as much as possible. The more local ingredients we can use, the better for everyone. We want to brand our products as using “locally-sourced” ingredients. People like consuming their regional produce/provenance.
Strategic marketing alone won't be enough to develop a market for alt-seafood. For SeaSpire, expanding the size of the alt-fish pie is also essential
We must expand the Alt-Seafood market together
Right now, consumer demand for faux-fish is low; companies need to create a market for it at first. Collaboration is the key to this, according to Varun.
We’re starting from a zero-base with alt-seafood. There isn’t a market that we can scale into right now. That’s why we want to defend our position in the market by offering a solution, not competition. In the future, we want to partner with the leading alt-seafood companies. Most companies right now are producing a product formula, a slurry if you will. This is compatible with our technology. Other companies can use their formula in our bioprinting technology. By helping a company like Shiok Meats to grow, we will expand the whole market for alt-seafood.
The story of alt-seafood so far, especially cultivated, is about collaboration, not competition. Shiok Meats and Integriculture have partnered to help realize cultured shrimp. Germany's Bluu Seafood partnered with China's CellX to meet demand for sustainable proteins. SeaSpire wants to use their innovative bioprinting technology to further expand the ecosystem.
The high potential markets for faux-fish
Besides collaboration, we asked Varun for his predictions about the future of alt-seafood.
Everyone’s excited about cultured seafood. Companies like WildType and Blue Nalu are in great positions to scale. But regulation is a blocker. Regulating cultured products will have a ripple-effect on the whole alt-seafood market.
Varun emphasises that certain regions are positioning themselves to lead the faux-fish market.
There are two regions I’m really excited about creating a wave of growth in alternative