Seafood supplier unveils plant-based shrimp, crab cakes

Published on
October 30, 2019

With the recent launch of its new Wild.Skinny.Clean. product line, The Van Cleve Seafood Co. says it is the first seafood product manufacturer to produce plant-based seafood items.

The timing for offering healthier seafood dishes and plant-based seafood selections is perfect, Shelly Van Cleve, co-owner and vice president of product development at the Spotsylvania, Virginia, U.S.A.-based supplier, told SeafoodSource.

“It [plant-based foods] is exploding; it is not a trend or a fad, it is the future and the future is now,” she said.

The 15-year-old, female-owned supplier has traditionally focused on “indulgent” seafood products, such as its Oprah Winfrey-endorsed Blue Crab Pie, for retail and foodservice. Now, it is launching New England Haddock with self-activating superfood coatings in three flavors: Mango Lime Poblano, Cranberry Orange Rosemary, and Sweet Curry Coconut, as well as Plant-based Crab-less Cake and Plant-based Pink Shrimp made from superfoods.

“The millennials in our family-owned company are the trailblazers. They shop differently than I do for themselves and their families. They have young children now and look at the health benefits of foods on labels,” Van Cleve said. As a result, the line, which was under development for two years, is low in calories and unhealthy fats, and is free from soy, corn, dairy, gluten, refined sugars, and GMOs.

While many seafood suppliers are “resisting” the plant-based movement, Van Cleve believes it is important to embrace it.

“It’s an evolution going on; it’s giving consumers a choice. We have a real crab cake and a plant-based crab cake,” she said. “There are a lot of flexitarians who are putting more plant-based products in their diets.”

As a longtime seafood supplier, Van Cleve executives know what plant-based seafood “should taste like and what the mouthfeel should be,” Van Cleve said.

“You can’t tell the difference between our plant-based crab cake and our real crab cake nor can you tell the difference between our shrimp and our plant-based shrimp,” she noted.

While the plant-based movement is booming, some plant-based foods are not necessarily healthier than the original items, Van Cleve said. The supplier wanted to ensure their plant-based items were lower in fat and calories than their traditional counterparts - and had added functional food benefits. The Crab-less Cake, for example, is made from artichokes, hearts of palm, sea kelp, and other natural ingredients.

The functional food toppings for the fish in the new line contain 14 to 20 "superfoods," and are activated when consumers add water and oil, she said.

“The whole kitchen smells like an herbal spa - not like fish at all. When the fish comes out, it is vibrant, colorful and boosting with nutrition,” Van Cleve said.

Van Cleve has partnered with Blue Harvest Fisheries, which catches haddock in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, for the fish used in its Wild, Skinny, Clean Brand.

“We looked for the best fish we could find that is domestic and that we could trace,” Van Cleve said. “We are keeping fishermen fishing and food on their table. They are hurt by cheap, imported seafood and they can’t compete with USD 0.99 cents (EUR 0.89) a pound.”

The new haddock products also do not contain sodium triphosphate or tripolyphosphates, a preservative for seafood, meats, poultry that helps reduce ice crystals and retain moisture and the fish’s bright color when freezing.

“We are calling out tripolyphosphates. A lot of times people don’t know that it is in their food because it doesn’t have to be on the label. If it is soaked in tripolyphosphates, it should be disclosed,” Van Cleve said.

The five new products will soon be available on Van Cleve’s web site and will be available in a large grocery chain early next year. Furthermore, the company in talks with a large grocer about carrying a private label appetizer tray of its plant-based seafood items, including Plant-based Crab-less Cake and Plant-based Pink Shrimp, along with plant-based Coconut Shrimp and vegan Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.

Photo courtesy of The Van Cleve Seafood Co. 

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