That was in 2018. By the following year, von Manteuffel, who had since founded the startup BettaF!sh with innovation manager and cookbook author Deniz Ficicioglu, had already launched his first signature algae food line. Under the catchy OCEANFRUIT label, they make innovative organic sea salads for retail sales that promote the distinctive taste of seaweed. However, this wasn’t enough for the Berlin entrepreneurial duo. This is because the two were completely sold on the benefits of this superfood from the sea.
Betting on seaweed
“The European seaweed we use in our products boasts more than just valuable nutrients and authentic flavor; it also delivers many environmental benefits,” emphasizes Jacob von Manteuffel.
One thing was therefore very clear: Seaweed needs to be made more appealing to a wider range of connoisseurs. “We realized people need a familiar product to eat more seaweed,” says von Manteuffel. They chose tuna, or rather canned tuna to be precise. “Canned tuna brings back childhood memories, whether you serve it with salad, pasta, pizza or as a creamy spread on a baguette,” he says. “It is eaten all over the world and used in a variety of culinary concepts.”
The look and feel of tuna – but one hundred percent plant-based
The BettaF!sh team of experts in food technology and cooking pros got to work. After just one and a half years of research and development, the product was ready. They called it TU-NAH, and it met the high standards Ficicioglu and von Manteuffel had set for themselves: it looks like tuna, tastes like tuna and is affordable to boot. “BettaF!sh is the first company to make 100% plant-based tuna alternatives using ingredients from the sea,” stresses Manteuffel.
TU-NAH consists of hand-harvested iodine-rich seaweed and sustainable broad beans, both from Europe. The high-protein range contains no soy, wheat, methylcellulose, yeast extract, sugar, preservatives or artificial flavorings. In October 2021, TU-NAH launched in German retailers and was soon also available in supermarkets in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. They offer a variety of sandwiches, pizza and spicy creams for dips and spreads.
Sustainable tuna alternative conquers the gastronomy industry
Since the summer of 2022, TU-NAH has also introduced a professional range for the gastronomy sector. The BettaF!sh team places particular emphasis on practicality. You can use the pro products just like tuna fish. “For the gastronomy industry, we have optimized our TU-NAH – you can easily and perfectly use it in both cold or hot cuisine,” says co-founder Deniz Ficicioglu. After all, it should be easy to switch to TU-NAH!
The professional portfolio offers no less than three sophisticated options. Besides the base you can season yourself, they also offer a topping and filling that is heat resistance up to 750 °F, making it suitable for use oven use, including pizza ovens. Third in the group is the creamy version refined with vegan mayonnaise – the perfect thing for sandwich spreads, wraps and salads. This innovative range makes Spicy TU-NAH Poke Bowl, Vitello TU-NAH-to or Insalata Nizza, to name just a few examples, a resounding hit.
Right from the start, the company was able to win over the highly regarded RUNGIS express GmbH as a distribution partner, which now offers the product range in Austria and Poland as well as Germany. Meanwhile, the gastronomy version of TU-NAH is available at The Pool and soon also at Transgourmet.
The range is catching on and you can already find it at Piccola Pizza in Cologne, Mission Pizza in Hamburg, Wild & Raw in Berlin and Wolke Pizzeria in Vienna, among other places. Lucas Chatelain, Managing Director of Mission Pizza in Hamburg: “Since Mission Pizza launched in 2019, we sought to make our entire menu completely vegan. When we tried out BettaF!sh’s TU-NAH, we immediately knew it was the right one for us! Our vibrant vegan community in Hamburg has welcomed our Vegan Siciliana with great enthusiasm. We are very excited to see what the future holds for BettaF!sh.”
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In any case, there are big plans in the works. In 2023, the company plans to introduce TU-NAH in a wide range of new restaurants. Many new products are also waiting in the wings, including the iconic TU-NAH can as a special highlight. The BettaF!sh team is also venturing into new fish species.
Tons of tuna saved
Their success is already impressive. “We have so far managed to process four tons of seaweed into our BettaF!sh sandwiches, creams and pizzas,” says Deniz Ficicioglu. But there is more to it than that. “Over the course of a year, we have saved 24 tons of tuna,” the entrepreneur says with satisfaction. “By simply leaving it alone.” Not to mention the 27 tons of bycatch that was also saved. When it comes down to it, that’s all you need to know to think TU-NAH is really cool.
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