Seafood is both a delicacy and a staple for many and Australian-born company Boldly is reinventing everything from shrimp to crab to calamari using plant-based ingredients. The company aims to disrupt the $600 billion global seafood market with its sustainable alternatives, made primarily from konjac (a popular Japanese root vegetable) in an effort to heal the oceans from overfishing.
While industrial fishing is a destructive practice, vegan seafood helps alleviate the strain on fish stocks, reduces the ecological footprint associated with traditional fishing methods, and promotes a healthier and more sustainable marine environment overall.
This summer, Boldly is unveiling the world’s largest selection of vegan seafood products which include salmon, tuna, crab sticks, calamari steaks, calamari rings, jumbo prawns, shrimp bites, whitefish, and more.
“Seafood is the world’s largest traded food commodity with approximately three billion people relying on it as a core source of protein,” Boldly CEO Ananda Bhavani said in a statement.
“With 65 percent of seafood expenditure occurring outside the home, primarily at restaurants, we at Boldly are excited to offer a variety of new plant-based choices with no compromise, bringing all the classic seafood tastes to restaurant tables, better than ever,” Bhavani said.
Boldly aims to make choosing plant-based alternatives easier with its vast line that addresses some of the most consumed seafood products.
And by doing so, individuals can contribute to the conservation of marine ecosystems, reduce bycatch and pollution, preserve biodiversity, aid in the restoration of fish populations, and support sustainable aquaculture practices.
A taste of Boldly’s vegan seafood
Boldy’s vegan seafood line will make its West Coast retail debut in partnership with Los Angeles-based grocery stores Bestie’s Vegan Paradise. There, customers will not only find Boldly’s fish-free products but can get a taste of how these items can be used in prepared foods.
In partnership with Bestie’s, Boldly will host a monthly chef series that highlights its vegan seafood in dishes available in the Grab and Go section. First up will be chef Niko Zaragoza from newly opened Niku Nashi, a sushi hotspot that sits inside cocktail bar APB (which stands for “All Plant Based”). There, Zaragoza has created a wide range of options, including a fully vegan sushi boat.
Boldly’s debut at Bestie’s follows a preview of its vegan seafood at the SEED Food & Wine Festival in January where Miami restaurant PLANTA South Beach showcased a four-course meal created by Top Chef alum Josie Smith-Malave. Here, the chef treated fest-goers to Boldly Crab rolls with truffle yuzu butter; Peruvian causa de atun with Boldly Tuna sashimi; and more.
Disrupting the $600 billion seafood market
Boldly believes the key to disrupting the market is speed and resilience, in addition to products that deliver on the taste and texture of conventional seafood.
“Plant-based seafoods are still uncharted territory for millions of people, and with consumers increasingly seeking alternatives to conventional meat and dairy, I believe the time is right for the next evolution of plant-based seafood products,” Boldly founder Allen Zelden previously told VegNews.
These days, more consumers are becoming aware of the environmental and sustainability issues tied to seafood, including the impact of overfishing and the health concerns associated with conventional seafood’s high mercury and heavy metal levels.
Boldly is part of a growing vegan seafood industry and, like others, uses konjac as a core ingredient. Boldly is also on a mission to accelerate the proliferation of plant-based proteins in foodservice by creating a positive experience centered around community while addressing the health and environmental concerns of conventional seafood.
“Seafood dishes are amongst the most popular in foodservice, hence why we have specifically optimized our versatile range of seafood alternatives so chefs can add their own creative spin to it across all cuisines while reshaping consumer perceptions around taste, texture, appearance, availability, and pricing,” Zelden says.
“Boldly Foods is on a mission to drive consumers towards the better choice with no compromise, bringing all the classic seafood tastes to restaurant tables, better than ever,” he adds.
Truly sustainable seafood alternatives
And when it comes to how plant-based seafood will disrupt the global market, Zelden says there are two key aspects. “As with all emerging disruptive categories, speed and resilience is everything,” he says. “With the plant-based food industry still very nascent relative to the overall food and beverage market, it is also at an exciting tipping point, hence this unique opportunity to fuel foodservice ecosystems with classic seafood alternatives at the ‘growth-stage’ of the plant-based trajectory.”
This can happen by providing a more sustainable product at competitive prices. “With fragmented distribution and increasing cost-of-trade pressures, the global foodservice industry needs access to more competitive and strategic partners if we are to drive radical systems change to address the climate crisis and sustainably meet our needs as a growing population,” he says.
Zelden is leading Boldly with more than 25 years of experience behind him. He is also co-founder of PlantForm, the private label arm of a plant-based manufacturing operation with global distribution across five continents and more than 1,000 SKUs on the market.
“With the fishing industry fraught with public health issues and threatening the future of marine biodiversity, it’s clear the future will either be filled with fishless fish or fishless oceans,” Zeldon points out.
In addition to its debut with Bestie’s, Boldly is also making its vegan seafood line available to foodservice providers across the US and is working with Miss Universe Australia as an exclusive partner on forthcoming chef-driven events.
Innovation in plant-based seafood
The plant-based seafood category is indeed booming, and experts believe the range of options will only continue to grow this year, providing fish-free alternatives for nearly every sea animal that humans have exploited for food.
According to the first-ever State of the Industry Report of vegan seafood by the Good Food Institute (GFI), $175 million was raised globally by companies in 2021, a 92-percent increase from 2020.
Emerging brands include Austria’s Revo Foods, which has created a whole-cut vegan salmon filet with 3D-printing technology; and Aqua Cultured Foods, which makes seafood alternatives with fungi-derived mycoprotein. There’s also Current Foods’ sushi-grade vegan tuna made from bamboo and potatoes, and ISH’s vegan shrimp made from coconut, konjac, and soy protein, among many others.
Aqua Cultured Foods
GFI suggests that alternative seafood is well-poised to capitalize on the momentum of the broader plant-based industry. And widespread commercialization of alternative seafood is a promising approach to alleviating pressure on both wild fisheries and aquaculture systems while helping to meet global demand for an important food source.
“Every year, we see advancements in the alternative protein industry that are opening the door for a global shift to a far more sustainable, secure, and just food system than the one we have today,” the report update notes.