Plant-based tuna and eel to be launched in South East Asia soon

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Ahimi, a plant-based tuna that can be made into sushi.
Ahimi, a plant-based tuna that can be made into sushi.
Japanese food wholesaler Nishimoto is planning to launch plant-based tuna and eel in South East Asia and Europe.

Named Ahimi and Unami, the plant-based tuna and eel are created by New York based company Ocean Hugger Foods​. 

As the world’s first plant-based tuna, Ahimi gained widespread media attention for enabling vegetarians to have a taste of “raw tuna” sushi when it was introduced last year.

It is made from tomatoes, non-GMO soy sauce, filtered water, sugar and sesame oil.

Besides sushi, Ahimi can be included in poke, quinoa, wraps, grain bowls and salads.

On the other hand, Unami, an eggplant-based eel alternative, is still in the works, and will be launched later this year.

They are aiming for 200 million yen (USD 1.82 million) sales of it in the first fiscal year, and expect the number to rise to 1.5 billion yen (USD 13.5 million) within a few years.

Some industry players, especially supermarkets, have already expressed interest to sell Ahimi, distributed by Nishimoto.

To keep the cost competitive, the company is also in discussion to build a factory in Thailand and Turkey to facilitate transportation to sales points in the region. They currently have manufacturing plants in Mexico.

This is not the first time that Nishimoto is selling plant-based fish products in South East Asia.

Previously, the company partnered Malaysia’s supermarket chain AEON to sell Konnyaku Yam vegan fish.

Usually the Japanese Food trend will start from Japan or US, and the other markets are likely to try the same trends within a few years,” ​said Takeshi Tom Kato, international business planning manager of NTC Wismettac Singapore Pte Ltd (Nishimoto Group).  

Ahimi in the US

Ahimi was introduced to the US consumers last year, and is available in supermarkets’ sushi counters.  

An Ahimi California Roll costs USD 8.99, while an Ahimi Sushi Combo costs USD 11.99.

Ahimi is already certified Kosher according to Ocean Hugger Foods.

The firm is also expanding its range of plant-based fish products. Besides Unami, Sakimi, a carrot-based salmon alternative, will also be launched this year. 

Growing market

As of last year, the US is the fastest growing market for meat substitute products. Sales​ of plant-based meats had risen 6% year-on-year, according to data from Nielsen, the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute. 

Besides the US, there is also increased interest from other western countries, such as the UK and Germany. Value sales for meat substitute was nearly USD 400 million in the UK and over USD 200 million in Germany in year 2016.

On the other hand, Denmark had the highest CAGR growth, standing at 24% from 2016 to 2021.

There are also more start-ups​ focusing on development of plant based meat and seafood to meet growing demand. Other firms have also looked into the lab to culture animal cells for consumption.

Currently, a range of plant-based or lab-based products have been produced, including alternatives of beef, pork, chicken, tuna, salmon, shrimp and crab.

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