Author: Matt Vulpis

Vegan Tuna, On The Rise

The growth of veganism around the world can be seen most clearly when looking at the number of signees for Veganuary, a campaign where people attempt to eat vegan for the month of January. 2022 saw record numbers, with over 629,000 people signing up from 228 countries and territories. In comparison, going back not even a full decade to 2014, there were only 3,300 sign-ups, just shy of a 19,000 percent growth over the eight-year time span.

The unprecedented growth is due in part to a variety of factors, but one of the main aspects driving the surge is the advancements of plant-based food technology thanks to digital transformation. Applications such as macromolecular imaging, and computational protein design are allowing food scientists to work on plant-based food at a cellular level.

These technologies both make it possible to analyze and visualize on a molecular level the 3D structures and the movements of proteins enables the redesign of proteins for plant-based foods, that fit the mass food market as to health, taste, stability, and cost. It’s applications like those two that have experts estimating the plant-based food market to reach over USD 1.2 trillion in total by 2030, with a market value of USD 162 billion for plant-based proteins alone.

Thanks to these new protein modifying technologies, plant-based meats have risen in popularity quite swiftly. The global plant-based meat market size is projected to reach USD 24.8 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 19.3 percent during the time period. Among the various new forms of vegan meat flooding the market, fish is one of the newest introductions in the plant-based protein sector, specifically vegan tuna.

The Rise of Vegan Tuna

Vegan tuna is part of a larger vegan seafood market, which has been around for a while, but is only recently beginning to gain traction in the mainstream amidst the rise of veganism globally. The global vegan seafood market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.7 percent until 2024, and the vegan tuna market is expected to see similar growth. 

The vegan tuna market size exceeded USD 273.2 million in 2022 and is estimated to grow at over 4.3 percent CAGR between 2022 and 2032, bringing the predicted 2032 market value up to USD 426.8 million.

The heightening demand for vegan tuna around the globe is due to factors like rapid depletion of world fish supplies, environmental concerns, and the health risks connected with excessive meat-eating, in turn boosting the sales of the product.

For instance, existing fish stocks are very constricted in terms of meeting the dietary requirements of such an increase as the world population base continues to grow. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 34.2 percent of fisheries are overfished in this decade, which makes up more than a fifth of global seafood supply.

They also state that at the current rate, aquaculture expansion would only keep up with rising demand in 17 countries, leaving over 170 countries with significant unmet demand, which in turn helps promote the vegan tuna market.

Along with this, relying less on the fishing industry would also benefit many of the other creatures that call the open ocean home. Dolphins, sharks, whales, sea turtles, and even types of seabirds commonly become hooked or entangled in fishing gear. While fishermen, by law, are not allowed to sell these creatures and must release them back into the wild, the encounters usually leave the bycaught creature severely injured, or in some cases dead.

Furthermore, fishing gear makes up 10 percent of all ocean pollution, which means there’s close to a million tons of fishing gear aimlessly drifting forever in the ocean. Yet again, less reliance on the fishing industry would help reduce these numbers, in turn benefitting all the creatures that populate big blue.

Apart from ocean related benefits, rising health issues like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and rising blood pressure are leading to consumer shift towards vegan seafood alternatives like vegan tuna which is beneficial for the same. The increased frequency of chronic gastrointestinal illnesses caused by the presence of mercury and other hazardous contaminants in seafood is truly fueling global market expansion, and as of late, has fueled the vegan tuna market in the US.

This reason for growth makes sense when the health benefits of vegan tuna are factored. vegan tuna is made to provide the same nutritional content as conventional seafood, and is normally composed of three key ingredients, those being pea protein with all nine essential amino acids, algae for omega-3 fatty acids, and beet juice for a natural red color while also providing potassium and other healthy minerals.

On top of this, vegan tuna holds an edge over traditional fish, when it comes to antioxidants offered during the meal. Oxidative stress, the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, has been linked to chronic inflammation, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts, and a number of other illnesses, according to the National Institutes of Health. The antioxidant-rich diet offered by vegan tuna may lead to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health issues. 

A Plant-Based Future Helps Protects Our Rivers, Lakes and Oceans

Overall, the current pace of the fishing industry is unsustainable, meaning one way or another, changes will have to be made soon. A shift to plant-based seafood could not only help create a cleaner ocean, but also provide health benefits to consumers around the world.