Plant-based seafood maker Ocean Hugger is relaunching via a partnership with Thailand-based Nove Foods, according to a statement on the Ocean Hugger website.
The venture comes after after the pandemic forced Ocean Hugger, which previously sold products primarily to foodservice businesses, to cease operations.
Part of Ocean Hugger’s plight in 2020 was the fact that the company’s plant-based tuna and eel products were primarily used for sushi. But in the U.S., most consumers get sushi either at restaurants or at prepared foods counters. The pandemic devastated both those avenues, leaving Ocean Hugger with little choice but to close up shop for a while.
However, the company came back in September 2020 with an announcement that it planned to re-enter the plant-based protein market, though no further details were given at the time.
Now, the plan is to launch “an expanded portfolio” of plant-based seafood products via a joint venture with Nove Foods, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of sustainable food manufacturer NRF. New York-based Ocean Hugger’s mission to produce a more ethical, environmentally friendly seafood is in line with NRF’s overall business, which has extended in recent years to include plant-based foods and functional foods.
The plant-based seafood market is still fairly wide open in terms of opportunity for companies. While New Wave Foods makes a plant-based shrimp analog and Good Catch has a “tuna” product on the market, there are not yet plant-based seafood companies that have the status that, say, Beyond or Impossible do with with beef analogs.
Ocean Hugger’s re-entry into the market gives the company another shot at becoming such a company. The company plans to release its expanded portfolio into retail and foodservice businesses later in 2021. Whether that will be in the U.S., Asia, or Europe is still to be determined.