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Seed to Surf is making waves in Whole Foods’ accelerator program

The maker of vegan tinned fish is participating in the LEAP program for up-coming local brands
Seed to Surf vegan tinned fish
Photography courtesy Seed to Surf

Tinned fish, but make it vegan. 

That’s the idea behind Toronto-based Seed to Surf, a plant-based seafood company that launched in 2022 with two tinned products: Mushroom Snow Crab, made from enoki mushrooms, and Celery Root Whitefish made with smoked celeriac. The products use whole vegetables and have clean labels with just a handful of ingredients, such as seaweed and sea salt. 

According to co-founder Alexandra Bergquist, there is a gap in the market for vegan seafoods that use whole vegetables. “Consumers want to eat clean, and they want unprocessed, unrefined foods that taste delicious. That led us to create our first couple of SKUs,” says Bergquist. “We are a plant-based seafood company, but we use whole vegetables to recreate a seafood experience.” 

READ: Demand for traditional and plant-based seafood on the rise

Seed to Surf recently became the first Canadian company to join Whole Foods Markets’ Local and Emerging Accelerator Program (LEAP). Launched in 2022, the 12-week program provides participants tailored educational sessions, mentorship and the potential for direct financial support. Each participant’s products are also considered for placement on the shelves of Whole Foods’ stores in their home city or region when the program ends. Just 10 innovative food brands, including Seed to Surf, were selected out of 1,000 applicants for the Early Growth cohort.

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seed to surf vegan tinned fish
Photography courtesy Seed to Surf

Seed to Surf caught the eye of Whole Foods partly for its delicious taste and stunning packaging, says Kelly Landrieu, global coordinator/director, local and emerging brands, at Whole Foods Market. “It’s the first of its kind, while also managing to be absolutely delicious… They knocked it out of the park. The fact that it’s a vegan product in that tinned-fish world brings us a new set of eyes to that category.” 

Landrieu says the selection criteria for LEAP also looks at company founders. “They’re innovative and passionate, but they’re also not blinded by their own success or their products – they’re willing to evolve and evolve with us,” she says. 

READ: Innovation continues to power the plant-based food movement

On the impression Seed to Surf made during the selection process, Landrieu says, “The founders were incredible… They showed up with a lot of passion and they were able to tell their story in a compelling way. You could just tell their belief in what they’re doing is so strong, that they were going to do it one way or another.” 

For Seed to Surf, it was important to be vegetable-forward and not just recreate meat. “We’re never going to say, ‘we’re snow crab.’ We’re going to say, ‘we lead with the vegetable or the funghi,’” Bergquist says. “We want people to think we’re not trying to pretend we’re something we’re not. But we’re adjacent.”

seed to surf
Photography courtesy Seed to Surf

The target audience for the products also extend beyond vegans. “We’re a fantastic option for people who don’t eat seafood, are allergic to shellfish, or just want to eat more vegetables,” says Bergquist. “We’re a vegan offering with the intention of not alienating non-vegans and that was a huge opportunity we saw.” 

READ: Price the ‘biggest hurdle’ in plant-based category: Study

Bergquist says Seed to Surf hopes to be available in Whole Foods stores in Canada and the U.S. In the long term, she says the company is looking to innovate and build the plant-based seafood space with more products. “We’ll look at what else is missing in the market that we might be able to capitalize on, but at the same time, always staying true to our roots, which is using whole vegetables and unrefined, unprocessed ingredients, and creating foods that are delicious. That’s the most important thing."

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