Tops in tuna, Thai Union moving into plant-based foods.

Thai Union, the world’s largest tuna company, said last week that it would introduce plant-based fish and other plant-based foods to Thai and other Asian markets this year in response to rising consumer demand.

“It’s all about what consumers want and need,” said Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, Thai Union’s Director of Global Innovation.

Thai Union’s entry into the plant-based food market puts it in the arena with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, two American-based companies making plant-based beef substitutes that are branching out into Asia.

Those companies have said their success has been built chiefly on consumers’ desires for food that doesn’t damage the environment. Beef production uses enormous amounts of land and water and releases greenhouse gasses.

Likewise, consumers have confronted seafood companies for illegal and overfishing and damaging the oceans. Thai Union has taken aggressive steps to eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing from its supply chains. S&P Global awarded the company “Gold Class” status for sustainability.

Nonetheless, the tide of consumer preferences is slowly turning. Flexitarians, those who consume mainly plant-based foods along with meat in moderation, are increasing in number.

“The flexitarian trend is growing and spreading rapidly from the West, and this group of consumers is not going away,” Tunyawat said. “Fish is the healthiest animal protein out there, but we must respect what consumers want, and we need to address their needs.”

Thai Union has already been producing seafood “analogs” for tuna, shrimp and crab in European markets. They will now bring those products to Asia while also continue to work on creating analogs for other meats such as pork.

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