The tuna maker announced Monday a joint distribution venture with vegan food company Good Catch, a Beyond Meat of sorts for fish, which makes seafood using legumes, beans and algae that has a similar texture to real tuna sans animal products and without the pungent odor.
Bumble Bee is one of the first major seafood companies in the country to partner with a plant-based brand diving into the $4.5 billion market that’s grown 11 percent in the past year, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association. The meat and dairy industries have leaned into plant-based protein options as more consumers look to eat less meat and embrace flexitarian diets. Now, sustainable seafood is shaping the future of fish food amid declining tuna sales in the last several years.
“Bumble Bee has always been deeply committed to sustainable fishing and we have been actively working to manage fish stocks across our portfolio,” Jan Tharp, president and chief executive officer of Bumble Bee Foods, said in a statement.
“It is critically important that as an industry we continue to find innovative solutions to decouple growth with environmental impact. Providing great-tasting alternative ways for consumers to enjoy ocean-inspired foods is a key pillar of our long-term commitment to ocean health,” Tharp added.
Consumption of canned tuna has sharply declined by more than 40 percent per capita in the last 30 years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as more consumers pivot away from canned and processed foods. StarKist's vice president of marketing even blamed sluggish sales in the tuna market on millennials for not owning can openers, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2018.
Good Catch sells its tuna in easy-to-open packets instead of cans. In addition to three varieties of fish-free tuna, it also sells plant-based fish cakes, fish burgers and crab cakes. The 3.3-ounce alternative tuna packets cost $5.99 and are available nationwide and on the same shelves as real tuna. A 5-ounce can of tuna, to compare, costs between $1.50 to $1.67, on average, for varieties like Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea.
Good Catch's protein profile also mirrors real tuna. One serving contains 90 calories, 14 grams of protein and no saturated fat. Bumble Bee tuna has 60 calories, 13 grams of protein and no saturated fat.
Tuna makers Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea still dominate the market, making up around 80 percent of sales, according to the Journal.
Plant-based options could help revive the humble deli sandwich, which seems to be struggling with deli meat sales on the decline as eaters cut back on processed cold cuts like sliced turkey, ham and roast beef to build a healthier diet.