The Chicago-based alt seafood maker has today (20 October) announced an agreement with hospitality and hotel management group SV Group, based in Dübendorf, Switzerland.
Bringing ethical and sustainable seafood alternatives to SV Group’s customer base – across business and campus catering, hotels, restaurants, and culinary delivery service businesses – aligns with the Group’s ‘north star’, according to the hospitality major. FoodNavigator hears how.
Sustainable seafood for SV Group ‘north star’
Aqua Cultured Foods is leveraging microbial fermentation technology to develop whole-muscle cut seafood alternatives. Made from fungi, the mycoprotein-derived products are devoid of animal inputs, as well as genetic alteration or modification.
The result is a sustainable, complete protein source, which uses just ‘a fraction’ of the resources required by traditional aquaculture, according to the start-up. Products under development include mycoprotein-based calamari, shrimp, scallops, and filets of animal-free tuna and whitefish.
It is this line of products, produced in an ethical, sustainable way, that have caught the eye of SV Group – a company that has committed to the Planetary Health Diet based on the recommendations in the 2019 Eat-Lancet Commission report. Further, SV Group is committed to only sourcing fish and seafood that meat the recommendations of WWF Switzerland.
“Even with our commitment to using only sustainably produced fish, seafood remains challenging with regards to ensuring it is ethically and responsible sourced,” explained Dörte Bachmann, Head of Sustainability at SV Group. “Plant-based seafood that tastes and performs just like its ocean counterparts is potentially a breakthrough.
“Our north star is bringing sustainability directly to our guests’ plates, so we take every opportunity to improve our environmental footprint, and that begins with working with suppliers that share those values.”
Sushi from the smart fridge?
The agreement opens a number of sales channels for Aqua – including SV Group’s ‘digital refrigerator’: Emil Fröhlich.
The company’s smart fridge technology offers fresh food in workplaces ‘around the clock’. Employing algorithms, the smart fridge tailors its offerings to the dietary preferences of employees. Automated payment is conducted via a smartphone app.
“SV Group represents innovation in every way, from modern, high-tech systems to promoting environmentally sound plant-based menus,” said Aqua CEO Anne Palermo. “We’re especially eager to partner on grab-and-go products for their healthy vending machine and smart fridge segments, because the shelf life of our alt seafood far exceeds that of conventional fish, which is impractical for those settings.”
In particular, Aqua believes its raw cuts would be ‘best suited’ for a smart fridge setting, since they can be eaten on-the-go without the need for heating. “Because of this, we intend to launch our sushi cuts in SV Group’s smart fridge, Emil, in the form of sushi rolls,” Aqua Chief Growth Officer Brittany Chibe told FoodNavigator.
Preparing for commercialisation
As a novel food, Aqua’s products require pre-market authorisation before commercialising in Europe. The start-up revealed it intends to pursue novel foods status as soon as it has achieved GRAS status on home soil.
“Typically, having GRAS in the US allows for a faster decision for novel foods because much of the research and studies have already been performed,” explained Chibe.
When regulatory approval does come through, SV Group plans to initially focus on the Swiss market – but with operations in other European countries, expansion could be a possibility down the line.
“Currently, the partnership only concerns our operations in Switzerland. However, we would be interested in extending the partnership to Germany and Austria as well,” Claudio Schmitz, Head of Culinary Excellence at SV Group told this publication.
Exactly which of Aqua’s products will be served across SV Group’s business areas has yet to be decided. To date, just a small group of the company’s culinary team has been able to taste ‘small bits’.
“Since we have not had a chance to try all the products yet, it is not quite clear which ingredients we will be launching with. I can think of a tasty Tuna-Poke Bowl for our smart fridge – our unmanned concept for contract catering canteens,” said Schmitz.
The reviews from what the culinary team was able to sample, however, was impressive. “It is amazing how close the taste and texture of cultured foods are to their ocean counterparts. We were very impressed by the possibilities of new production methods.”
As to when SV Group expects to be able to offer Aqua’s products to its customers, the company said it at the earliest, roll out could kickstart mid-2023.
“As soon as the products are available in Switzerland at a competitive price, we are happy to test them in a few restaurants.”