By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on 03 January, 2013
Sebastopol, Calif.-based Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Seafood recently launched frozen Breaded Vegan Crab Cakes and Breaded Vegan Scallops, to add to its other vegan products: Prawns, Breaded Calamari and Breaded Fish Fillets.
“When my first daughter, Sophie, was almost two years old, she had a severe allergic reaction to a little bit of shrimp,” said Eugene Wang, founder of Sophie’s Kitchen. “I thought, ‘There should be a company creating products not only for vegans and vegetarians, but also for people who have seafood allergies and those who have health concerns such as high cholesterol’,” Wang said.
The company’s “crab cakes” and “scallops” – along with all of its other products — are made from Konjac, a yam popular in Asian diets. Konjac is high in dietary fiber, has very few calories, and has been studied as a food that may mitigate the transport of cholesterol.
To get the fish and shellfish flavors, Sophie’s Kitchen products contain kelp and other seaweed. “The seaweed, which also has high mineral content, creates the ocean flavor,” Wang said. Wang said it was important for him to develop a product that tasted like seafood, but did not include synthetic flavorings and colorings. For example, the pink/red hues in the prawn product are achieved with a small amount of paprika. “We don’t want to give people more chances to be allergic to our food,” Wang said. In fact, the company’s breaded items are gluten-free.
The company also worked to get the texture of its products as close to fish and shellfish as possible. “Once we get the texture correct, your brain tells you it is very similar to the real seafood you used to have,” Wang said.
Sophie’s Kitchen’s vegan seafood fits into the growing trend of more Americans seeking out healthy and vegetarian/ vegan foods. Five percent of Americans are vegans or vegetarians, while 33 percent “mostly” eat plant-based foods, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.
“Vegetarianism was not that popular 20 years ago. Now, people are practicing it because they want to eat healthy. A lot of our customers are just trying to get more plant food in their diets because of high cholesterol and other health concerns,” Wang said.
Sophie's Kitchen’s products are sold in natural food chains such as Whole Foods Market and independent natural food stores in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, regional grocery chains such as some Albertsons stores in Texas, have picked up the line.
This spring, Sophie’s Kitchen will launch Breaded FishLess (fish sticks) and Breaded Coconut Shrimp.