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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
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Hooked 2023: Vegan Seafood Alternatives

Monika Werthén, chief marketing officer of Hooked, tells us more about this exciting Swedish-based startup that aims to revolutionize the way we think about seafood, the ecosystem, and sustainability.

When was Hooked launched and what inspired its creation?

The company was launched in 2019 and was founded by Emil Wasteson and Tom Johansson in Stockholm. 

Tom was born and raised in the Stockholm archipelago where seafood is a profound part of the culture. His sister became a vegan, and this sparked a discussion about the sustainability of seafood, and why nobody was seemingly trying to find an alternative. 

He then teamed up with Emil and they started to explore different options to do just this. A third co-founder then joined forces with them – the lab whizz of the team – and he came up with the method of how to go about doing this. 

The timing of the symbiosis was perfect and happened to coincide with when this whole movement started, globally speaking.

The idea was always to efficiently replace everyday seafood consumption, and to still enjoy real fish on occasion, similarly to the development of meat and dairy alternatives. The key is to find and maintain a balance. 

The ocean creates 50-80% of the oxygen we breathe – can you elaborate?

More than half of the oxygen created by the atmosphere comes from the ocean (plankton, bacteria, algae, etc). What we’re trying to highlight is that the marine ecosystem is not there simply for our pleasure and we need to start respecting this more (and quickly). 

Once we start to distort the ocean, we risk the deterioration of the oxygen generation of the planet, similar to the devastating effects and repercussions of the deforestation of the Amazon. 

What is your mission?

Our mission is to help adopt a better approach for a healthier marine ecosystem, and we believe that the only way for this to happen is to have an actual alternative to seafood so that the stocks can be revived and replenished. 

In your experience, how willing are consumers prepared to change their dietary habits?

We know there are many other companies that have paved the way in the plant-based alternative sector, especially within the dairy and meat industries, and we are grateful for this. I think society is on the verge of waking up to this reality and it’s the younger generation that is demanding the need for change.  

The question is how long it takes for people to convert, and what are the technical possibilities presented to them. The products not only need to look aesthetically pleasing, but they have to taste good and texturally resemble what people know. 

I think it’s unfair to presume people will change their cooking habits and so the products also have to be easily integrated into their culinary repertoire. 

What can you tell us about your products?

We have one product on the market called Toonish – our tuna equivalent. It’s created through a special shredding technique so it resembles canned tuna. It’s made from wheat and soy protein, and contains algae which gives it its marine element and fishy flavor. 

We’re launching our salmon product this year which we’re extremely excited about. It’s made from similar ingredients as the Toonish, and will be both ready-to-eat and destined to be baked. We think it will tip the scales as salmon is a popular everyday dish in many markets.

Again, the idea is to produce not only something that resembles the real thing as closely as possible, but to also contain as much of the nutritional value as the live counterpart. This means the product needs to be high in protein, Omega, and vitamins.

Where can we find Hooked products?

They’re readily available in supermarkets and restaurants. In supermarkets, we have mixed our product with mayonnaise or tomato-based products to make it easy for consumers to integrate into their kitchen routine.

Our products can currently be found in Sweden, but we’re launching in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the UK this year. We’re also looking at Holland for the near future.

The Mediterranean countries offer a huge opportunity as seafood is a very pronounced part of their diet, although convincing them to convert may prove to be more delicate.

What do you believe is your biggest challenge, going forward?

I think education is very much needed. We need to educate the public on why we’re doing what we do, whether it be about the oxygen generation of the ocean, trawling techniques, overfishing, or bycatch… The bigger companies can simply push their product – we have to do both.

Other than this, we need to go to market fast and right now. We welcome competition but at the same time we need to establish the Hooked brand and to be the first out there with bigger volumes of product.

Realistically, do you feel the world is ready to go sustainable to the point we need it to?

I want to say yes. But are we doing enough? Absolutely not. If you look at the annual reports, we’re lagging behind considerably. However, we have to start somewhere, and if we can have an impact on consumers' everyday habits, we can make a difference.

If restaurants start serving other options, then we may start to catch up. We are just one tiny piece of a huge puzzle – but we are optimistic.

What lies ahead for Hooked?

Salmon. International expansion. Building the footprint, predominantly in Europe first.

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