According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 33 percent of all fish stocks are overfished. 60 percent of the stocks are fished at the maximum limit of sustainability. The use of chemicals in industrial shrimp farming and the environmental pollution it entails for rivers and other bodies of water are also well known facts.
Things don’t look good for fish lovers. So what options do you have if you still don’t want to give up fish or seafood? One good idea is to buy regional products. For example, the German fish recommendation pamphlet by Greenpeace ranks local carp as ‘unproblematic’ – which is also the only fish ranked as such – and shrimp can now be purchased from a Bavarian farm. Another option is choosing a plant-based alternative.
A profitable business model and a more sustainable world
There are already players in the US plant-based food industry with Good Catch and New Wave Foods, and now Happy Ocean Foods aims to conquer the German market. The founding team – which includes Robin Drummond and Julian Hallet – want to win over more than just vegetarians and vegans with their first product, the Happy Ocean Shrimp. Robin Drummond said:
“We have major goals and a clear vision. We believe that every individual can make a difference. When you change part of your behavior, that influences others and can make bigger waves. Let’s make some waves. That’s our motivation. With Happy Ocean Foods, we not only want to establish a very profitable business model, but also make a contribution to a more sustainable and healthier world […] We believe that we can have a major impact by becoming an internationally successful brand in the plant-based segment for fish and seafood that will ultimately win over fish eaters and the mass market.”
So what exactly are the ‘happy’ shrimp made of? Robin Drummond explained:
“We develop alternatives for fish and seafood that are plant based. We use a combination of plant-based proteins combined with algae extracts, spices and natural flavors – extracted from algae – to produce our first product, the Happy Ocean Shrimp, which is just like real shrimp in terms of taste, texture and appearance. Thanks to the ingredients, our shrimp are rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are also most particularly found in fish and are a good source of protein.”
Lots of experiments and quite a few iterative loops
The Munich startup hasn’t launched its shrimp yet, but their first sale to a restaurant is planned for August. What is the biggest challenge Happy Ocean Foods has faced so far? Robin Drummond answered:
“Developing a convincing product that is a real treat for your taste buds and truly healthy. During product development, we conducted lots of experiments, went through quite a few iterative loops and collected customer feedback through taste tests to produce a result with that ‘wow effect.’ We are extremely happy with the flavor and nutritional value of our current Happy Ocean Shrimp.”
What continues to be a challenge is convincing the mass market to accept an alternative product, but that is the only way to make a lasting impact. The fact that it’s possible, however, has been demonstrated by brands such as Beyond Meat or the Swedish oat drink manufacturer Oatly, which with its Barista Edition has made its way into many people’s refrigerators who had otherwise shown little interest in alternative products.
The Happy Ocean Shrimp is also to be followed by additional alternative fish products. However, if you are a restaurant owner and would like to get started with their shrimp option, you can register as a Happy Ocean Foods sales partner and make a small contribution to the plant-based fish revolution.