The Plant Based Seafood Company, a new seafood analog product venture formed by the owners of the Van Cleve Seafood Co., has nabbed significant pre-seed funding and purchased a new production facility to grow distribution of its Mind Blown brand.
Spotsylvania, Virginia, U.S.A.- based Van Cleve, a longtime supplier of value-added seafood products, first entered the plant-based seafood analog market last fall with its Wild.Skinny.Clean. line. But Van Cleve spun off all of its plant-based seafood analog products into a new company, Plant Based Seafood Co., owned by Van Cleve-Talbert and Shelly Van Cleve, co-owner and vice president of product development at Van Cleve Seafood.
Now the Wild.Skinny.Clean. brand, which formerly focused on plant-based seafood analog versions of products like breaded shrimp and crab cakes along with functional food toppings for seafood, will include only conventional seafood products and functional toppings, Van Cleve Co-Owner and CEO Monica Van Cleve-Talbert told SeafoodSource.
The separation of the new Plant Based Seafood Co. which sells plant-based seafood analog products under the Mind Blown brand, will help “avoid any customer confusion with conventional and plant-based seafood being under one brand,” Van Cleve-Talbert said.
To support the plant-based company’s expansion, Van Cleve has obtained a pre-seed investment from Hatch, a global fund dedicated to investing and accelerating sustainable innovations in the seafood industry.
On Thursday, 17 September, Hatch announced an expanded mission beyond its accelerator program for aquaculture technology, which now includes alternative seafood innovation.
Plant-based and cell-based seafood now fit into Hatch’s model and mission, Van Cleve-Talbert said. She declined to reveal the funding amount, defining it only as “significant.”
“We received overwhelming interest from around the globe for the plant-based seafood products – from buyers to investors to consumers,” Van Cleve-Talbert said. “Many investors that have come calling prefer not to invest in a line that carries both; their interest is purely plant-forward innovations.”
The Plant Based Seafood Co.’s next funding round in 2021 will include individual investors and venture capital firms “both in the sustainable seafood and impact/plant based space.”
“We continue to have significant interest from both,” Van Cleve-Talbert said.
Van Cleve-Talbert said The Plant Based Seafood Co. has purchased a separate production facility, fulfillment center, test kitchen, and retail store on Gwynn’s Island in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.
“Watermen have been commercial fishing, crabbing, and oystering [on the island] for generations and we have been cooking, taste-testing products and doing photo shoots for a few years,” Van-Cleve Talbert said. “When a commercial property with industrial zoning opened up on the island, we took that leap of faith with the intent of growth and expansion with a multi-functional facility that could house a tasting and retail room in the front, e-commerce fulfillment center, and Innovation Kitchen.”
The facility also has a test kitchen called “The Innovation Kitchen,” as well as a greenhouse where it will grow medicinal herbs, fungi, and spices. The company also plans to dry seaweed from the island for potential use in its products. Through the development process, the Plant Based Seafood Co. plans to test all its products on “real seafood-eaters here who know good seafood,” Van Cleve-Talbert said.
“If it doesn't blow their mind, we know we need to keep working,” she said. “This island is our ultimate focus group.”
In addition to Mind Blown Dusted Shrimp, Naked Shrimp, Crab-like Crab Cakes, and Crunchy Coconut Shrimp – sold online and in Publix GreenWise Markets – the Plant Based Seafood Co. recently launched a plant-based scallop analog: Dusted Bay Scallops. The scallops are lightly dusted with Old Bay seasoning and a gluten-free mixture.
“We have done extensive consumer blind taste testing and scallop lovers cannot tell our plant-based scallops are made with plants,” Van Cleve-Talbert said.
The Plant Based Seafood Co. is also developing plant-based lobster tail and lobster bites, and will soon launch Spicy Bang Bang Shrimp.
Photo courtesy of Plant Based Seafood Co.