Friend of the Sea certification program to be rolled out for plant-based seafood
06 Oct 2020 --- Accelerated demand for fish analogs this year has prompted industry to set a new standard for no-catch products, which will see an environmental certification system for plant-based seafood officially launch later this week by auditors of the fishing industry.
Consumers are attracted to plant-based seafood as these products are often perceived as cruelty-free, environmentally ethical and a more sustainable way to feed the world’s growing population.
The anticipated certification scheme will be led by the World Sustainability Organization (WSO) in partnership with the Good Food Institute’s (GFI) Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Like all certification initiative, it will help guide consumer purchasing decisions.
“Plant-based seafood is ripe for opportunity with growing acceptance in the meat alternative category,” George Perujo, director of product management specialty ingredients EMEAI at ADM, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Markets with a high seafood consumption rate, such as the Philippines, where protein intake from seafood is 45 percent; and Malaysia, where intake is 35 percent; hold much growth potential for plant-based products.”
Global appetite for alternative seafood
According to ADM OutsideVoice research, 18 percent of US alternative protein buyers purchased their first meat alternative during the early outbreak of COVID-19 (March and April), and 92 percent of those buyers say they are likely to continue purchasing.
“Plant-based seafood currently comprises just 1 percent of the plant-based meat market, but we expect this number will increase in the months and years ahead,” Perujo tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
The new certification will be carried out under a Gold Level version of the Friend of the Sea program. This will aim to inform purchasing decisions in retail and foodservice, as the plant-based revolution branches out into new categories.
“This program is a pivotal opportunity for the nascent plant-based seafood industry to expand its visibility and impact. Certifications like this can help point environmentally conscious consumers to new, sustainable foods that they might not otherwise consider,” outlines the GFI.
“WSO’s Friend of the Sea certification program can thus enhance plant-based seafood companies’ ability to both attract conscious consumers and establish themselves as a sustainable option in both the retail and foodservice industries.”
Last month, Givaudan hailed plant-based fish products as “the next big thing” in alternative proteins. Other key ingredient players, such as Hydrosol and food giants including Nestlé, are stepping into the space, with significant progress expected to be made next year.
Applying for certification
Plant-based seafood companies can now apply for Friend of the Sea certification if they meet the requirements of terrestrial agricultural products set by WSO’s Friend of the Earth standard.
The Friend of the Earth scheme was developed in accordance with the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems. It includes criteria such as limited pesticide use and energy efficiency standards, along with social responsibility criteria.
Plant-based seafood products will gain certification as Gold Level Friend of the Sea products if the ingredients in their supply chains comply with the Friend of the Earth agricultural standards.
Seafood alternatives are in the spotlight as a pathway to combat overfishing. Last month, ocean lobby groups and NGOs expressed that overfishing will result in stocks having “no chance to recover” as Europe set its catch limits for 2021.
Informing purchasing decisions
Retailers, restaurants and individual consumers increasingly rely on sustainability certifications to make informed seafood purchasing decisions.
The GFI anticipates that a certification pathway for plant-based seafood will establish industry’s role in advancing retailers’ progress towards sustainability goals.
To date, many retailers and restaurants have published goals related to the proportion of seafood that they sell or serve that is certified sustainable.
For instance, Walmart maintains a sustainable seafood policy that requires more than 90 percent of seafood sold to be certified by Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Best Aquaculture Practices, or engaged in a Fishery Improvement Project.
In most cases, when a company achieves certification, it is permitted to use the certifying organization’s logo on its products to communicate to consumers that its production process has met the standards.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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