Bayou Best Foods Dives Into Alt-Seafood Market

In a significant move for the plant-based seafood industry, agrifoodtech investor Big Idea Ventures (BIV) has announced the launch of Bayou Best Foods. This new company aims to carve out a niche in the alt-seafood space, utilizing intellectual property from New Wave Foods, an alt-shrimp startup that ceased operations late last year. Bayou Best Foods represents the eighth investment from BIV’s Generation Food Rural Partners Fund and is set to make its market debut in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Leading the charge at Bayou Best Foods is Kelli Wilson, a seasoned veteran in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector. Wilson brings a wealth of experience from her tenure at major companies like Conagra, Niman Ranch, Blue Apron, Beyond Meat, Partake Foods, and MycoWorks. Her leadership is expected to be a key differentiator in the company’s quest to succeed where New Wave Foods did not.

Tom Mastrobuoni, BIV’s chief investment officer, emphasized that the failure of New Wave Foods should not be interpreted as a lack of market potential for seafood alternatives. “It was a confluence of events,” he explained. “We’ve learned a ton of lessons, which is why we’re bringing in someone with Kelli’s experience to run Bayou Best Foods. At the end of the day, you’re still running a food company, not a tech company that makes food.”

Bayou Best Foods plans to initially focus on plant-based shrimp, with ambitions to expand into other seafood categories. Mastrobuoni highlighted the growing concerns around traditional shrimp farming, such as ethical and environmental issues, which are becoming increasingly significant to chefs and a small but growing number of consumers. “There is an opportunity to provide a product that has a more transparent supply chain with more predictable pricing,” he noted, adding that the company’s primary focus will be on foodservice, given that a majority of seafood in the U.S. is consumed through this channel.

Wilson elaborated on the operational strategy, noting that the company will leverage co-packers for manufacturing and will avoid costly technologies like twin-screw extrusion. “We’re using simple blending and heating and forming followed by freezing and packaging for ready-to-heat products,” she explained. While New Wave Foods used mung bean protein combined with seaweed extracts, Bayou Best Foods is exploring other high-quality protein sources. “What excites me about this is that it is a very straightforward process,” Wilson added. “We are not trying to build a second factory inside of a factory that doesn’t scale well.”

The plant-based market has faced its share of challenges, with Mastrobuoni acknowledging that the category is currently “boring” and in need of innovation. However, he remains optimistic about the future. “The plant-based market is sick, but it’s not dead. You have to understand the needs of your customer and your end consumer,” he said. Bayou Best Foods aims to build a portfolio of products across different species, leveraging multiple technologies and potentially licensing IP from universities.

Despite the grim outlook for alternative protein investment, as noted by Marissa Bronfman, founder and executive director of Future Ocean Foods, the alt-seafood market presents a global opportunity. “A majority of the world is eating seafood, so if you’re looking for a massive total addressable market, seafood is a fantastic way to go,” Bronfman stated. She emphasized the urgent need for sustainable protein sources as the global population continues to grow.

Bayou Best Foods represents a fresh start in the alt-seafood space, with a well-capitalized foundation and experienced leadership poised to take advantage of the lessons learned from New Wave Foods. As the company prepares for its launch, the industry will be watching closely to see if it can navigate the complexities of the market and deliver on its promise of sustainable, plant-based seafood.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top