Il leader in Europe in the production of frozen foods, Nomad Foods Ltd., invests in startup californian BlueNalu to produce fish, crustaceans and molluscs from cell cultures. (1)
The new frontier of Biotech - on the long wave of Lab Meat, which in turn attract billionaire investments (2) - is more relevant than one might think. Here because.
Nomad Foods, leader European frozen food
Nomad Foods Ltd., British group listed on New York Stock Exchange (NYSE NOMD), is the owner of numerous brands including Iglo and Findus, La Cocinera and Green Cuisine, pizza Birds Eye, Aunt Bessie's, Goodfella's. The production sites in 14 countries of the old continent are now joined by those of the Hungarian Fortenova Frozen (brands Ledo and Frikom, among others), in turn leader market in all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the acquisition of which for € 615 million was completed on 30.9.21. (3)
Sustainability has a priority role in the strategies of the group, with effective attention to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UN Agenda 2030. (4) To the point of including, among the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to be considered in the refinancing plans, the levels of:
- sustainability of raw materials. Fish and vegetable products, the packaging. 100% target by 2025 and 2022, respectively
- abatement of greenhouse gas emissions. With already remarkable results and the recent accession to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTsI).
Sustainable fish, the great challenge
The 'sustainable fish' - in both meanings of 'sustainability of fisheries' is 'sustainable aquaculture'- represents one of the greatest challenges in fulfilling the objectives of food safety (# SDG2), production and consumption sustainability (# SDG12) and above all 'Life below water'(# SDG14).
The group Nomad Foods it is already the largest buyer of sustainable wild fish globally. And it is committed, among other things, to promoting greater consumption of plant foods. He also stresses that Europe is the world's largest importer of fish resources, since consumption exceeds three times the production (EU Blue Economy Report 2021. See note 5).
Alt Fish, alternatives to fish
, as we have seen, it is already oriented towards the production of alternatives to fish from vegetable raw materials. (6) The Nestlé group has moved in this direction, which on 7.10.21 announced the launch of vegetable alternatives to shrimps - vegans Garden Gourmet Vrimp, made with seaweed, peas and konjac root - after the success of the Garden Gourmet Vtuna (vegan alternative to tuna. See note 7).
Fish from cell cultures instead is the area of interest of Nomad Foods, which has therefore started a collaboration with BlueNalu. A startup launched in 2018 in San Diego (California, USA), which in a few years has achieved the leadership in the development in the laboratory of a variety of fish products starting from fish cells. In this way, consumers' attitudes and the context of the rules will be analyzed in view of developments.
'We are at the forefront of a generational shift towards a healthier and more sustainable diet and we are pleased to announce our collaboration with BlueNalu. Their revolutionary technology in cell-grown fish products aligns perfectly with our purpose and will allow us to continue introducing innovative and tasty seafood products that are good for people, good for the planet and accessible to all. ' (Stéfan Descheemaeker, Nomad Foods, CEO).
beyond Good and Evil, the reasoning is flawless. With only one possible obstacle, however transitory, of a regulatory nature.
The process developed by BlueNalu it isolates fish cells from muscle, fat and connective tissue and promotes their multiplication in a suitable culture environment. Without genetic modifications (such as AA salmon, AquaAdvantage, developed a dozen years ago). Consumers could welcome this type of product, for a number of reasons:
- sustainability. It is possible to preserve the genetic identity of fish, molluscs and crustaceans which, depending on the case, may be over-exploited (therefore at risk of extinction), difficult to breed or to find near the countries of consumption. Or again, derived from worker abuse,
- food safety. Biotech fish products present no risk of contamination from heavy metals, microplastics, parasites (eg. Anisakis) and other contaminants (give additives ai antibiotic residues),
- nutritional safety. High biological value proteins, Omega 3 fatty acids in the ideal supply (EPA + DHA),
- convenience. Ready-to-eat sales formats, without the need for cleaning or waste, can overcome the hesitation of many towards preparing fish,
- quality price. Value for money can play a winning role, and it's also about what a ubiquitous behemoth is like Nomad Foods confides.
Investments and collaborations
At the beginning of 2021, BlueNalu raised $ 60 million in investments. Thanks to which it will be possible to build a pilot plant, start the production and distribution in the USA of fish from cell cultures, for the first market tests.
BlueNalu has already established collaborations with various giants. Pulmuone Co., Ltd. in South Korea, Sumitomo Corporation e Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan, Thai Union in Thailand (owner of Rio Mare in Italy).
More startup like Bluu Biosciences (Berlin, Germany), Finless Foods (Emeryville, California, USA), Wildtypes (San Francisco, CAL, USA) in turn move. And theAltFish from cell cultures it approaches our tables.
Footnotes to the story
(1) Nomad Foods and BlueNalu collaborate to introduce cell-cultured seafood in Europe. Nomad Foods press release, 13.9.21/XNUMX/XNUMX. https://www.nomadfoods.com/news/nomad-foods-and-bluenalu-collaborate-to-introduce-cell-cultured-seafood-in-europe/
(2) Dario Dongo. Israel, Future Meat. The first laboratory-grown meat industry is launched. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.7.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/innovazione/israele-future-meat-al-via-la-prima-industria-di-carne-coltivata-in-laboratorio
(3) Nomad Foods Completes Acquisition of Fortenova Group's Frozen Food Business and Updates Guidance. Nomad Foods press release, 30.9.21/XNUMX/XNUMX. https://www.nomadfoods.com/news/nomad-foods-completes-acquisition-of-fortenova-groups-frozen-food-business-and-updates-guidance/
(4) Nomad Foods. Sustainability report 2020, https://www.nomadfoods.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/2020-nomadfoodsreport-final-v2.pdf
(5) European Commission, Joint Research Center. EU Blue Economy Report 2021. https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/0b0c5bfd-c737-11eb-a925-01aa75ed71a1
(6) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Alt Fish, the vegetable alternatives to fish products. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.9.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/innovazione/alt-fish-le-alternative-vegetali-ai-prodotti-ittici
(7) Plant-based alternatives to egg and shrimp now on menu at Nestlé. Nestlé press release, 7.10.21, https://www.nestle.com/media/news/plant-based-alternatives-egg-shrimp
Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.