UK-based frozen fish major Nomad Foods is to join forces with US cell-cultured seafood business BlueNalu on a project the pair hope will lead to the introduction of cell-based products in Europe.

The Birds Eye, Findus and Iglo brands owner suggested the agreement represents the first of its kind in Europe between a consumer packaged goods company and a cell-cultured seafood company.

California’s BlueNalu, set up in 2018, is developing seafood products directly from fish cells in a laboratory and is awaiting regulatory approval in the US. The US Food and Drug Administration, like its peers in Europe, has yet to approve the sale of lab-cultivated protein.

Seeing the potential for cell-based products in Europe, Nomad said: “Europe is the largest importer of seafood in the world due to high consumption rates, with EU citizens consuming more than three times as much as they produce.”

It said the agreement signifies a mutual interest in the commercialisation of cell-cultured seafood in Europe to “help meet rising demand and support wider efforts to safeguard the long-term availability of quality, affordable seafood that is healthy for people and sustainable for the planet”.

The collaborative project will see the companies “conduct market research and identify consumer insights, assess regulatory requirements and explore new business and product opportunities” for cell-cultured seafood in Europe.

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Stéfan Descheemaeker, Nomad’s CEO, said: “The food industry is at a transformational moment as consumer demand for nutritious, high-quality food is growing, the importance of sustainability has never been more apparent, and the role of technology in delivering these needs is accelerating.

“We are at the forefront of a generational shift towards healthier, more sustainable eating and are delighted to announce our collaboration with BlueNalu. Their breakthrough technology in cell-cultured seafood perfectly aligns with our purpose and will enable us to continue to introduce innovative and great tasting seafood products that are good for people, good for the planet and accessible to all.”

Lou Cooperhouse, president and CEO of BlueNalu, said: “As the latest IPCC report on the climate crisis demonstrates, the decisions we make over the next decade will have a profound impact on life on this planet for generations to come.

“With this announcement, BlueNalu is well-positioned to bring our leading-edge innovation into Europe in the coming years, which complements our existing collaborations in Asia and North America.”

He told Just Food: “We have not done any consumer research in Europe thus far, and this collaboration with Nomad Foods is intended to result in an extensive understanding of consumer insight for cell-cultured seafood and its many benefits and opportunities and help us in the development of our market strategy for Europe.

“Over the past two years, we have conducted exploratory market research with consumers and also with foodservice operators in the US, which has been extremely valuable and insightful, and we have also begun exploratory market research now in various nations of Asia as well.”

In January, BlueNalu announced it had raised US$60m in debt financing, based on convertible notes, with Thailand-based seafood giant Thai Union Group among its backers. It is working with Thai Union and Japan-based conglomerate Mitsubishi Corp. – the owner of UK seafood business Princes – on researching the potential for cell-cultured seafood in Asia. In December, Singapore gave US cell-chicken firm East Just the green light to sell its products in the city-state.

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