The rise of algae: What will the future of sustainable seafood look like?

The rise of algae: What will the future of sustainable seafood look like?

By PreScouter Editorial Team

Access our report to explore how algae is transforming plant-based seafood, including insights on six novel algae types and emerging market opportunities.

Over 85% of the world’s fisheries are either overexploited or depleted. Therefore, we cannot rely solely on wild fish as a source of future food for growing populations. While options like aquaculture have yet to keep up with demand, the rise of alternative seafood offers a promising solution.

By 2030, alternative seafood is expected to make up almost 8% of the global seafood supply for people. New seafood production methods could help reduce the environmental impact of traditional fishing and farming methods. 

This article explores how algae can revolutionize the production of plant-based seafood by addressing nutrition, sustainability, and flavor challenges. 

What is sustainable seafood?

Sustainable seafood refers to fish or shellfish caught or farmed in ways that do not damage the health of marine life and its habitats. It helps prevent the long-term depletion of marine species while supporting the resilience of aquatic ecosystems. 

Moreover, sustainable seafood practices strive to minimize the environmental impact of fishing and fish farming. They focus on reducing bycatch, avoiding overfishing, and maintaining essential marine habitats. These practices also consider the socio-economic effects on local communities, promoting ethical trading and supporting sustainable livelihoods.

Increasing demand for plant-based foods:

The plant-based food market is expected to reach almost US $100 billion by 2032. Plant-based meat, egg, and dairy alternatives are widely accepted today. Meanwhile, plant-based seafood saw a 14% sales increase in 2021. This popularity also reflects consumers’ concerns about the negative impacts of traditional seafood on health, the environment, and ethics.

In 2023, about 60% of younger generations lead society’s response to climate change. They believe its primary cause is human activities. Hence, many consumers turn to plant-based products to reduce their carbon footprint. This also helps mitigate the environmental impact of animal farming.

How does algae address the challenges of plant-based seafood?

Here, we explore how algae is improving plant-based seafood production by tackling key challenges. We highlight algae’s role in improving flavor, nutritional content, and sustainability.

Flavor and quality

Challenge: Plant-based seafood often lacks the flavor and quality of authentic seafood. This is because they require the use of complex compounds like polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and sulfuric compounds to replicate the taste and aroma of seafood.

Solution: Microalgae and macroalgae are rich in proteins, soluble fibers, and various bioactive compounds. These algae also contain high levels of polysaccharides, lipids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Additionally, their free amino acids contribute to the umami taste, which is crucial for seafood flavors. 

Nutritional profile

Challenge: The nutritional benefits of current plant-based seafood alternatives may differ from animal and fish-based foods. This highlights the need for improvements in plant-based food fortification to enhance their nutritional profile, particularly regarding protein content.

Solution: Microalgae have a high protein content, typically ranging from 28% to 71% of dry weight. They also provide substantial amounts of necessary omega-3 fatty acids. This reduces the need for fish consumption in human diets. Some species, like Arthrospira platensis (Spirulina) and Chlorella vulgaris, have protein content that ranges from 50% to 60% based on dry weight.Common compounds found in algae that resemble the taste of seafood

Sustainability of conventional proteins

Challenge: Most plant-based seafood products rely on conventional proteins like soy and peas. These options may not be sustainable due to the agrochemicals used during production, leading to soil and water pollution.

Solution: The plant-based seafood market offers opportunities for innovation by focusing on improving flavor, nutrition, and sustainability. Algae can fill soy and pea’s taste and nutrition gap with a lower carbon footprint.

Why is algae the future of sustainable seafood production?

Microalgae fermentation is a promising protein technology that has been shown to produce 37 times less CO₂ than beef. Microalgae are 99.95% more efficient in land use compared to soy protein. They also emit 67% fewer greenhouse gases and use 55% less water than soy protein. The carbon footprint of plant-based food production is 5 to 10 times lower than that of tuna and salmon. This comparison holds even against fish aquaculture methods.

Consumers increasingly seek seafood options that offer better flavor and nutritional content. They also prefer products that are ethical, sustainable, and safe for those with shellfish allergies. This shift in consumer behavior has attracted interest from companies and investors in the food and beverage industry, driving the growth of plant-based alternatives. Consequently, algae’s potential to meet these demands makes it a crucial player in the future of seafood production. 

The bottom line:

The emergence of algae as a crucial component in plant-based sustainable seafood is reshaping the industry. By addressing challenges in flavor, nutrition, and sustainability, algae is proving indispensable. With the ongoing pressure on global fisheries and the limitations of aquaculture, algae-based solutions are vital for the food of the future.

As awareness of climate change and ethical considerations heighten, the demand for plant-based seafood is seeing significant growth. This trend is especially strong among younger consumers, who are more likely to embrace innovative food solutions. Algae-based seafood is at the forefront of this shift, offering nutritious, flavorful alternatives while reducing the environmental burdens of conventional seafood production.

If you have any questions or would like to know if we can help your business with its innovation challenges, please contact us here or email us at

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