The market for vegan fish substitutes is still relatively small compared to the overall market for fish. So, as Andrea Weber, Director Corporate Responsibility at METRO, explains, problems such as overfishing or a lack of animal welfare standards will not be solved by ‘vegan fish’ alone. ‘These challenges must be solved where they arise,’ says Weber. ‘We will always be dependent on proteins like fish to be able to feed humanity in a sufficient and balanced way.’
Nevertheless, alternative products could take some pressure off the existing system, according to Fabio Ziemssen, Managing Director of the innovation hub NX-Food: ‘For many consumers, vegan alternatives are a tried-and-tested way to gradually change their diet. A change in attitude among consumers leads to a more conscious approach to food. Especially with everyday products like tuna and salmon, vegan alternatives can be a very helpful replacement.’ NX-Food researches novel foods and manufactures alternatives, such as meat produced from cell cultures and fish substitutes made with 3D printers.
The development of plant-based substitutes is more than just a fad. It could also be part of necessary measures to meet the growing demand for food. ‘In many respects, plant-based alternatives offer the chance to feed a growing world population,’ Ziemssen says. At the same time, a menu with many plant-based foods can contribute to a healthier diet – but of course that is not always the case. ‘Plant-based foods can also be “unhealthy” or at least not beneficial to health,’ Ziemssen explains. Substitute products, be they meat or fish alternatives, sometimes contain fewer nutrients than the ‘original’. As with so many other things, it’s the right mix that counts – and vegan fish can be a part of that.