New Friend of the Sea Golden Standard established for plant-based seafood analogs

Published on
October 15, 2020

The World Sustainability Organization (WSO) and The Good Food Institute (GFI) have joined forces to initiate a joint certification program for plant-based seafood analogs, the organizations announced on 12 October.

The new “Golden Standard” for plant-based seafood analogs will fall under WSO’s Friend of the Sea certification program paradigm, according to the organizations.

“The Friend of the Sea Golden Standard will help plant-based seafood companies certify their products according to sustainable certification criteria of the WSO’s Friend of the Earth agriculture standards. Plant-based meat products will receive a comparable Golden Certification from Friend of the Earth,” they said in a press release.

To obtain the certification, companies must satisfy the following requirements:

  • A well-organized environmental management procedure;
  • A system to protect the ecosystem, with implementation of areas dedicated to the conservation of wild flora and fauna;
  • The reduction in the use of chemically synthetic substances according to the principles of organic or integrated agriculture;
  • Biological control, the rational use of water resources;
  • Minimization of mechanical operations on the ground and its compaction;
  • The use of energy from renewable resources;
  • Control of gas emissions, greenhouse effect and the implementation of the systems to reduce them;
  • Social responsibility.

World Sustainability Organization Founder and Director Paolo Bray said the standard will ultimately help provide consumers with assurances that their plant-based protein and product purchases bearing the approval were not achieved at the expense of the environment.

“Plant ingredients form the entirety of inputs used in the preparation of plant-based seafood,” Bray said. “Our standard, which is applicable for these products, is based on SAFA (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems) guidelines set by UN-FAO. Intensive agriculture practices contribute to the loss of agricultural and natural biodiversity, degrading ecosystems and causing a reduction in animal and plant species. Such activities are also resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions, among other concerns. The Friend of the Sea Golden Standard for plant-based seafood will assure consumers that products have been made by adopting sustainable practices without harming the environment.”

The partnership between WSO and GFI was announced during GFI India’s Smart Protein Summit. Both parties believe the collaboration will serve to strengthen the global alternative protein sector, at a time when interest in the category is taking off.

“The segment’s future is promising and we expect to see large scale investment commitments by the who’s who of the industry,” Bray said.

Amod Ashok Salgaonkar, a WSO international advisory board member and project leader of the plant-based seafood and meat initiative, said he believes the standard will help encourage more sustainable business at the global level.

“Having a globally accepted sustainable certification ecolabel on products will support companies achieving true trust from consumers," he said. "he plant-based seafood retail category presently stands at around USD 9.4 million [EUR 8 million], whereas the plant-based meat retail category is USD 939 million [EUR 803 million] – signaling huge potential growth in the near future.”   

Asia holds a great deal of growth promise for the plant-based protein analog category, according to GFI India Managing Director Varun Deshpande.

“Seafood will be the fastest-growing category of animal protein over the next decade, with a significant proportion of that demand coming from Asia as incomes in the region continue to rise,” Deshpande said. “The growth of alternative seafood presents tremendous promise to address this demand sustainably, while simultaneously creating future-proof income for industry incumbents and farmers.”

GFI Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative Manager Jen Lamy said she expects alternative proteins, such as plant-based seafood analogs, to play a key role in moving the dial forward on sustainability.

“We are thrilled to partner with the World Sustainability Organization to give consumers an expanded array of delicious and sustainably produced fish and shellfish. Alternative proteins will play a key role in the growing sustainable seafood movement and this initiative is an important step in solidifying the industry’s growth,” Lamy said.

The highest-ever growth in sales for all kinds of plant-based food have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, commissioned data from SPINS found.

“WSO and GFI are undertaking this program because they believe adopting the International sustainable standards will further boost this growth trend. The WSO’s Sustainable Restaurant Program will further support companies that adopt the Friend of the Sea plant-based seafood Golden Standard,” the organizations said.

WSO already operates the Friend of the Sea and Friend of the Earth projects within the global sustainable certification sector. The two certifications programs have a presence in over 100 countries, WSO said.

Photo courtesy of the World Sustainability Organization

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