TIME Magazine just announced that vegan tuna will be featured on its top 100 Best Inventions of 2021 list, naming food tech company Kuleana’s plant-based tuna product one of the most significant culinary achievements from this year. TIME solicits nominations from its editors and correspondents each year and then ranks the nominees based on originality, efficacy, ambition, impact, and creativity.
This year, Kuleana’s sushi-grade vegan tuna secured a spot on the list for its innovative ingredients and production method. The plant-based tuna contains algae, radish, koji, bamboo, and potato to replicate the popular sushi protein. TIME also notes that Kuleana’s tuna alternative contains health-promoting benefits and sustainable accomplishments.
“Tasty and nutritious plant-based alternatives for meat and chicken have been available for years. But seafood? Not so much,” TIME wrote about Kuleana’s innovative tuna. “That’s the void that Kuleana is trying to fill with its 100-percent plant-based, sushi-grade, ready-to-eat tuna …[and it] retains the iron, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acid of the real thing—without the microplastics, mercury, or high cholesterol.
“And the benefits are more than nutritional—it may also help to alleviate reliance on industrial fishing in the face of increasing demand for fresh food.”
Founded by food technologists Sonia Hurtado and Jacek Prus, Kuleana entered the market in 2019 and remained a frontrunner in the alternative seafood market. The company’s plant-based tuna replicates the texture, taste, and versatility of sushi-grade tuna, boasting its ability to be used in a poke, sushi, nigiri, carpaccio, and ceviche. With a deep red color reminiscent of its fish-based counterpart, the Kuleana tuna is carving a space for plant-based fish across many different cuisines.
The San Francisco-based company is one of three food category inventions across the entire TIME Best Inventions list. The other two food-oriented inventions are the packet that keeps food fresh called SAVRpak and a new noodle shape encrusted as the Sfognili Castelli. TIME mentioned UPSIDE Foods’ cell-based chicken and MeliBio’s cultured honey in the special mentions sections. Kuleana’s inclusion signifies an essential step for both the vegan seafood industry and the greater plant-based market.
“As a bold innovator in the space of alt-seafood, we’re honored to be included in TIME’s thoughtfully researched list, joining past awardees like Allbirds and Impossible,” Prus said.“We are on a mission to sustainably and satisfyingly feed the world’s next billion. This coming year, we will continue to grow the channels through which consumers can access plant-based seafood. We are only as successful in our mission as we are in getting Kuleana Tuna onto plates and into fridges across the world.”
Kuleana aims to solve several problems that emerge from the seafood industry including overfishing, plastic pollution, fish fraud, human slavery, and nutritional value. Since its initial launch, the vegan tuna expanded across the retail industry and even made appearances in several restaurants within the United States. Consumers can find the new vegan tuna at select locations of Poke Bar and Blue Sushi Sake Grill.
Initially, the innovative product could only be found at the Los Angeles-based health store Erewhon. Now, the plant-based tuna can be purchased on the online retailer GTFO It’s Vegan. The products come in two styles including poke cubes and fillets can be bought for $13.99 per 8.8-ounce pack. The retailer also released its own konjac-based vegan sashimi that features sailfish, calamari, tuna, and salmon varieties. GTFO It’s Vegan intends to continue expanding its vegan seafood space.
“After monitoring tens of thousands of transactions and observing customer purchase patterns on our platform, we believe the next big wave of innovation in plant-based food will come in the category of seafood,” CEO of GTFO It’s Vegan Marc Pierce said in a statement. “We were very excited to find and partner with Kuleana as they truly have a leading-edge plant-based sashimi solution in a category that is rapidly growing. With the taste and texture of this product, we know it will be a winner among our wholesale and retail customers.”
Vegan seafood is one of the fastest-growing industries within the plant-based sector. Recently, the Good Food Institute released its State of the Industry Report: Alternative Seafood that found that the alternative seafood market raised $116 million in the first half of 2021. This investment is compared to the total investment in 2020 which was only valued at $26 million. The plant-based seafood sector is exploding with more than 87 companies producing innovative vegan seafood options. Motivated by nutritional and environmental concerns, companies like Kuleana attend to a growing, hungry consumer base.
“We’re providing the next generation of seafood without the environmental consequences,” Prus said in a statement. “Kuleana is seafood that is good for our palate and our planet.”