Disrupting the Seafood Industry with Chad Sarno

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This month, TPBW had the pleasure of chatting with Chad Sarno, Co-founder and VP of Culinary for Good Catch Foods. In this conversation Chad tells the story of Good Catch and offers valuable advice for his colleagues in the culinary space as consumers continue to shift towards healthier, more sustainable foods. Last month we featured New Crop Capital, the investment group backing Good Catch – so if you missed that article you can check it out here. Good Catch’s plant-based tuna hits the market at the end of the month so be sure to keep an eye out!

What is the story and mission behind Good Catch Foods?

The main focus of Good Catch is to provide delicious sea food without sacrificing flavor, nutrition, texture and functionality without the use of animals. It’s a grand vision and mission that we have. Most of our investors, including New Crop Capital, are mission driven and in it for the long hall and in it for the impact opportunities.

We looked at a number of different directions to go with products and we wanted to have the largest impact. We looked at where the greatest white space was in the plant-based protein category and found that it was seafood. So we set out on the journey to create a product that would emulate the same qualities, such as taste, texture and functionality, as tuna.

What markets do you see as the biggest opportunities?

We feel that retail and food service go pretty much hand in hand as the majority of our revenue stream, with being used as an ingredient and any white label options as more of a secondary opportunity. We wanted to make something shelf stable that could sit next to it’s animal-product counterparts in the grocery store isle. As far as retail goes we are starting by launching online with Thrive market and then moving into Whole Foods.

But we also recognize that tuna is one of the most consumed proteins in food service, so we saw a major opportunity there as well. We are seeing more and more operators large and small looking into innovative proteins. It’s a very hot category right now in food service. And when you look at how many tuna salad sandwiches are served, it’s a massive opportunity. We also have some very exciting restaurant partners that we can’t talk about quite yet that will be launching the product in the coming months.

What makes it so exciting to me, especially from the culinary standpoint is that our product is a 1 to 1 swap with traditional animal-based tuna. This makes using Good Catch products incredibly convenient for chefs and food service operators.

What do you see as the biggest obstacles to making Good Catch a household brand?

I think the biggest obstacle has to do with the concept of plant-based seafood not sounding appealing to most people. It’s sort of like how “vegan chicken” was 10 years ago – people just aren’t familiar with it and it sounds weird. So it’s important for us to encourage people to open their minds to an entirely new concept of what seafood can be.

One way we feel we can tackle that problem is by addressing the biggest concern that most people have with regards to traditional tuna, which is the smell. Time and time again people surveyed cite this one aspect as the thing they like least about the food. Even people who love tuna will often not bring a tuna sandwich on a plane or to the office because they think the smell is offensive. So we heard this feedback as we were developing the product and set out to create a plant-based tuna without it being stinky. Because of this we don’t use any natural flavors in our product and instead use seaweed and micro algae to get the taste we are going for. And what we have found is that even people who don’t like tuna are enjoying our product because it doesn’t have that offensive smell.

The best way to describe the taste of Good Catch is that it tastes more like the ocean than it does fish.

What are the advantages of launching a food business with a culinary background?

It’s one thing that we really pride ourselves on here, that Good Catch is created by chefs. Between my brother Derek and I we created the flavor. And for the food-tech play we have Joel Gfeller who is our head of technology and innovation. He’s really the brilliance behind the product in terms of manufacturing and extrusion. But as far as flavor-forward it is really chef-driven and I certainly wanted to be part of this product through its development process. As chefs, Derek and I were really able to put our culinary spin on all the products and will continue to do so through our innovation pipeline and create products that we can take a lot of pride in.

Our motto is that we are culinary rebels with a cause, creating seafood without sacrifice.

What advice would you give to the up and coming generation of chefs who are looking to combine their mission to change the world with their passion for food?

I would say that there is nothing that is impossible at this point. The standard American diet is killing people every day and it’s mainly due to the overconsumption of dairy, eggs and animal products, so there’s a lot of opportunity in plant-based. Especially if we keep it with high integrity, which is the most important thing. The bar has been set so high by the companies that are leading the way right now. So for anyone out there who wants to enter that space of creating products that emulate what people are used to and disrupt animal agriculture – we need to keep our standards and our integrity at a very high level.

And what advice would you give to the more seasoned culinary community as they try to keep up with the consumer shift away from animal product consumption?

To be honest, I think if at this point a chef is not on board with plant-based then they are chasing the train.

This is more than a trend, it’s moving forward at a rapid pace. There are so many products out there that make it so easy for chefs to offer plant-based options that are more interesting than just roasted vegetables.

A lot of people might think that this is something that will fade away, and maybe you could have thought that 10 years ago. But now you see the largest animal agriculture companies in the world investing in plant-based and the largest food manufacturers offering plant-based options… you know that the shift has happened and it’s here to stay, so you have got to jump on board!

Big thanks to Chad Sarno and the entire team at Good Catch Foods for the work they are doing to make delicious seafood that is also healthy, sustainable and ethical. Look out for Good Catch tuna at a grocery store or restaurant near you!

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