In mid-January, Finless Foods staff, Lauren Latchford and Shannon Cosentino-Roush journeyed to the La Quinta Resort and Spa in Palm Springs, California to attend the 2023 National Fisheries Institute’s Global Seafood Market Conference. If you’ve read our past blogs, you’ll know that Lauren and Shannon attended their first NFI conference in 2022, so they were keen to return to catch up with colleagues in the seafood industry, get up to speed on seafood forecasts for 2023, and talk about cell-cultured and plant-based tuna.
This year’s NFI’s GSMC was met with mixed emotions. The recent passing of John Connelly, President and CEO of NFI for nearly 20 years, was difficult for all members, colleagues, and friends. John had a significant impact on the seafood space and helped usher the path forward in building relationships between the conventional seafood industry, aquaculture, and most recently, cell-cultured seafood. In 2021, Finless worked with the National Fisheries Institute to submit a joint public comment to the FDA’s Request for Information on Labeling of Foods Comprised or Containing Cultured Seafood Cells in which we jointly supported truthful, non-misleading, descriptive, and clear product labeling and the use of qualifiers in product names to differentiate cell-cultured seafood from conventionally produced wild or farmed seafood products. It was the relationship that John and Finless cultivated together, and his pioneering approach to the seafood industry that made this joint letter, and lasting relationship, possible.
Finless was most interested in hearing the plenary on how seafood measured up against other proteins, namely beef. Performance Food Group President of Protein Brands Steve Sands
Provided beef projections, which illustrated a near-future shortage of beef. He used this shortage to lay out all the ways seafood could take advantage of the market share and move into the spotlight. We would be remiss not to mention that Sands touted cell-cultured technologies as the future of the beef industry, and offered advice to the seafood industry to do the same. Finless couldn’t have been happier to hear those words, which helped to strike up more conversations with colleagues over the conference, and led to an excellent turnout at the Protein of the Future panel.
This year NFI wanted to shine a light on alternative seafood and offered a panel, Protein of the Future, that discussed the opportunities and challenges of the aquaculture, cell-cultured, and plate-based seafood space. We were delighted to get an email from NFI requesting our expertise on this panel alongside Lou Cooperhouse of Blue Nalu and Sylvia Wulff of AquaBounty. The panel was hosted by Dylan Howell, of Hatch. Together, we discussed seafood growth trajectories, illustrating the increasing demand for seafood, and how wild-caught seafood will need help in meeting that demand from other innovative methods such as aquaculture and alternatives. For cell-cultured technologies, opportunities include offering a consistent and traceable seafood supply chain that complements wild and farm-raised species. In addition, cell-cultured seafood can provide delicious and nutritious seafood all while allowing our oceans to thrive. The difficulty lies with obtaining equipment to scale and the capital expenditure to bring the product to market. For plant-based alternatives, opportunities lie in the consumer wanting expanded choices for health and wellness, sustainability, and improving food security and resilience. With equal importance, plant-based seafood has the potential to mitigate the environmental impacts on our food system. The challenge lies with building-up and scaling ingredient supply chains, differentiating brands in an increasingly competitive market, expanding consumer adoption, and improving product performance.
Shannon did a fabulous job speaking to plant-based seafood, offering insights on cell-cultured products, and answering engaging questions from the audience. Most importantly, NFI’s new President, Lisa Wallenda Picard, was in attendance and expressed her excitement at what she had learned, and her desire to hear more about these innovative industries. Overall NFI 2023 was a great success and we look forward to next year’s conference.