In 2022, Finnish food tech company SuperGround launched a unique and innovative food production technology. It enabled them to be the first to solve how the food industry can utilize chicken bones and their nutritional benefits in an unnoticeable way when producing poultry-based foods. Now, the company has done the same for fish. For the first time ever, everything except the guts can be used in producing consumer-familiar fish foods.
Traditionally, after the fish fillets have been separated, the rest of the hard tissues, such as fish bones, skin and scales, usually either go unused as a production side stream, are used as animal feed or as a fertilizer and biofuel raw material. Depending on the fish species, around 20–60% of its net weight could not previously be used as food. The number of these unused parts is especially high with smaller fish species, such as perch. SuperGround’s food production solution now enables the use of these previously unused hard tissues as a sole raw material in food production. It is estimated that around 20–60% more food can be produced this way from fish than previously possible.
“Us humans have a long history of eating fish bones. Fish bones have been used as food previously, but now we make using them and other hard tissues as food more efficient, sustainable and versatile. We want to encourage and enable companies to utilize the full potential of fish and all of its precious and nutritious raw materials, which previously could not have been used as food. Now, the fish industry can simultaneously improve its efficiency and sustainability, while consumers see the fish products they know and love becoming more nutritious, tasty, and sustainable. This way, customers can make more sustainable choices without changing their dietary habits,” says Santtu Vekkeli, founder and chief innovator of SuperGround.
Any fish goes – more food out of fish with improved vitamin and calcium content
With the exception of the guts, the whole fish can be inserted into SuperGround’s food production machine. The efficient process softens and grinds the bones and other hard tissues with no mass lost in the process. The outcome is fish mass that can be used in various ways. Around 15–30% of the mass made from bones and other hard tissues can be added when, for example, manufacturing fish balls, without affecting their taste. Similarly, up to 15% of the mass can be added or needled into fish fillet products such as fish sticks. The mass can also be used as broth or sauce. The mass enhances the taste and smooth mouth-feeling of fish products.
Using hard tissues, such as fish bones, skin and scales, also increases the nutritional value of fish products since they include a higher volume of different vitamins, calcium, and good fats compared to fish fillets. Due to two reasons, the nutritional potential of fish has previously not been truly unlocked. First of all, an efficient process to soften hard tissues was non-existent. Furthermore, only SuperGround's heat treatment process, lasting around one minute, allows the preservation of precious vitamins and nutrients.
Unlocking the full potential of fish improves the efficiency and sustainability of the fish industry
SuperGround’s food processing technology and solution help increase both the efficiency and sustainability of fish food production. With its technology, SuperGround wants to make the whole fish industry more sustainable by reducing environmental impacts, such as emissions and food waste.
The fish and seafood industry, with its estimated annual revenue of $611.80 billion in 2023, is expected to grow by 6.23% annually during 2023–2027. At the same time, overfishing remains a major challenge. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around a third of global stocks are overfished, posing a threat to biodiversity and throwing ecosystems dangerously out of balance.
“In addition to plant-based alternatives, we need ready-to-use solutions that improve the sustainability of existing and popular food choices. And this is where we can contribute, simply because with our food production technology, more tasty fish products can be produced without increasing the use of fish and fishing altogether. Not using the full potential of fish in food production is a huge opportunity wasted – from the planet, sustainability, business, and taste possibilities aspects,” Vekkeli says.
SuperGround’s food production technology and solution is available to fish product companies worldwide.
Sourcea: SuperGround; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
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