Pandemic forces closure of leading plant-based seafood analog developer

Plant-based seafood analog developer Ocean Hugger Foods said it “must cease operations” due to deteriorating business conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company, which sells exclusively to foodservice customers, has seen its business channels dry up in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, according to a 23 June update on its website.

“Over the last four years, we have been honored and privileged to serve our business partners and the general public with groundbreaking and award-winning, plant-based alternatives to some of the most endangered species on our planet. We will be forever grateful for your belief in this essential mission, and our business,” Ocean Hugger stated.

The firm’s portfolio of seafood alternatives included raw-tuna substitute Ahimi and raw-eel substitute Unami. Created by certified master chef James Corwell, Ahimi is a vegan, non-GMO product comprised of five ingredients: Tomatoes, filtered water, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Unami, which was launched at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Illinois in June 2019, features eggplant marinated in gluten-free soy sauce, mirin, and algae oil.

In its parting message, Ocean Hugger said it hopes its successes will inspire more innovators to take the plant-based seafood alternatives category into the future.

“Indeed, we believe that the need for sustainable, ethical, and healthy food offerings has never been more critical, and that the opportunity for businesses addressing this need is extraordinarily promising. While we mourn the loss of our business and so many others to the terrible pandemic facing our communities, we hope that our success as a pioneer in plant-based seafood will inspire new entrepreneurs to take action on behalf of our oceans,” the company said.  

Although the company is not operating regularly anymore, co-founders David Benzaquen (CEO) and Corwell said they “are happy to discuss interest in the company’s assets.” Moreover, they noted that some of the company’s distributor partners still have inventory of Ocean Hugger products available for purchase by foodservice operators.

Photo courtesy of Ocean Hugger Foods


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