Long John Silver’s exec: Plant-based seafood analogs “will be the next big wave”
Long John Silver’s is making history as the first major national seafood chain to embrace plant-based seafood analogs.
Last month, the Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A.-based operator of more than 700 restaurants across the United States announced a partnership with Good Catch, partnering with a New York City, U.S.A.-based maker of plant-based imitation seafood products. It will trial Good Catch's Plant-Based Breaded Fish-Free Fillet and Plant-Based Breaded Crab-Free Cake products at five of its restaurants in the U.S. states of California and Georgia.
In an interview with SeafoodSource, LJS Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Mattingly explained why the restaurant chain is offering plant-based seafood analogs and what its future plans are for the category.
SeafoodSource: Why did LJS want to offer plant-based seafood analogs? How do they align with the company's values and goals, and operational plans for this year?
Mattingly: We have always believed that our unique seafood experience should be accessible to all. By serving plant-based seafood, we can further that mission by embracing customers who follow plant-based diets. LJS is guided by a vision of fishing smarter with less environmental impact. Our cod, pollock, and salmon are sustainably sourced and wild-caught. Plant-based seafood is a new take on sustainability worth exploring as well.
Menu innovation is a major focus for Long John Silver’s too. In 2019, we launched our grilled menu lineup featuring Grilled Shrimp and Salmon Meals, Tacos and Rice Bowls. This year, we added a triple-chocolate fudge cake and a sweet and spicy Heinz Honeyracha sauce to the menu for a limited time. Testing plant-based seafood is part of our latest wave of menu innovation.
SeafoodSource: What is the consumer demand for plant-based products and seafood analogs?
Mattingly: Plant-based protein is all the rage these days. We’ve found that around two-thirds of consumers prioritize sustainability in their purchases and the perceived health benefits of plant-based foods motivate purchase. The plant-based seafood market is projected to grow USD 1.3 billion (EUR 1.1 billion) over the next decade, and we anticipate that it will be the next big wave, after seeing the initial success of plant-based burgers and chicken.
SeafoodSource: Will LJS add other plant-based seafood analogs or other plant-based products in the near-future?
Mattingly: Currently, the plant-based seafood products are a limited-time offering in select restaurants. The future of plant-based seafood at LJS will be determined based on how our customers receive the new offerings. Plant-based seafood options are part of the work we have been doing this year to revitalize and expand Long John Silver’s unique seafood experience. The LJS leadership team is optimistic to see success in this test-run, and you can expect to see more exciting news from us in the upcoming months.
SeafoodSource: Why did LJS decide to partner with Good Catch out of all the plant-based seafood analog suppliers?
Mattingly: LJS spent time researching the best tasting plant-based seafood to add to our menu and Good Catch curated the right taste, texture, and ingredients that we were looking for. The Fish-Free Filets and Crab-Free Cakes fit seamlessly into our menu, allowing customers to choose their go-to orders, but with plant-based protein. The perfect taste and texture, paired with our classic menu items, lets customers try something new without sacrificing the familiarity of food they already enjoy.
SeafoodSource: Are the plant-based seafood analog entrees priced higher than equivalent products on the menu, or about the same?
Mattingly: Affordability is integral to our belief that the LJS seafood experience should be accessible to all. We made it a priority to ensure that our plant-based seafood is affordable as well. Our plant-based options are slightly more expensive than the crab cakes and sustainably sourced wild-caught cod, pollock, and salmon that make up our core menu options. We are still exploring the right pricing to provide our guests with great value while remaining profitable for our restaurants. Currently in testing, we are pricing the plant-based options similar to our premium grilled shrimp and grilled North Pacific salmon options.
SeafoodSource: If the pilot project is successful, what are LJS’s plans to expand the plant-based offerings?
Mattingly: Considering LJS is the first major seafood chain venturing into plant-based seafood, we haven’t yet determined how we will expand the plant-based seafood offerings. We are certainly optimistic that guests will love and crave the plant-based seafood as much as our core seafood offerings. Again, the expansion of plant-based seafood will be determined by the customer response to this product.
Photo courtesy of Long John Silver’s