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story.lead_photo.caption In this Oct. 28, 2009, file photo, a Tyson Foods, Inc., truck is parked at a food warehouse in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Tyson is making waves with its latest investment in plant-based foods.

After divesting itself from Beyond Meat earlier this year, Tyson Foods Inc. has purchased a stake in New Wave Foods, a maker of plant-based foods designed to resemble shrimp.

Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman did not disclose terms of the investment in a news release nor through email.

New Wave's product, made from seaweed, soy and plant extracts, is marketed as a stand-in for shrimp, offering the same flavor and texture. It contains no dairy, eggs, fish, peanuts, shellfish or wheat, and has fewer calories, salt and grams of protein than the real thing, according to New Wave's website.

"Our product is a delicious, one-for-one direct swap for the real thing, and interchangeable in a wide range of recipes," said Mary McGovern, chief executive officer of New Wave Foods, in a statement Thursday. "It gives chefs and food service operators great menu options while addressing consumers' growing demand for sustainable choices."

Today's shopper is more aware of health and climate-change issues, and can vote with their dollars on what products they think are helping out, said Martin Thoma, principal of Thoma Thoma marketing agency in Little Rock.

"You have a lot of narrative threads in the media, in the Internet, social media ... that will continue driving interest and trial if the products are good," Thoma said. In regard to food, animal agriculture does play a role in climate change, he said.

Each year, Americans eat more than 4 pounds of shrimp per person, more than any other fish or shellfish, according to Fisheries of the United States. More than 1 million pounds of shrimp are imported each year, mostly from East and Southeast Asia.

"Is it just a novelty? I kind of doubt it," Thoma said about alternatives to meat, poultry and fish products.

Tyson's purchase also falls in line with its goal of finding and investing in companies with "disruptive" food-related products and technologies, said Amy Tu, president of Tyson Ventures, a capital investment subsidiary.

Some include cell-based meat producer Memphis Meats; Tovala, a maker of smart steam ovens; and MycoTechnology, a lab that makes flavor ingredients out of mushrooms. One of the earliest investments was in Beyond Meat, which Tyson left earlier this year after announcing plans to make its own line of plant-based products, and just days before the California company went public and enjoyed an immediate jump in share price.

This Summer, Tyson debuted what it had been working on: imitation chicken nuggets made from pea protein, bamboo, flaxseed and egg white; and blended burger patties made of Angus beef and pea protein. The packer said it plans to have the nuggets available in 5,000 stores by the end of the month, and the burgers available this fall.

New Wave Foods is preparing to start its Series A round of funding, with plans to have the imitation shrimp ready for food-service operators next year.

"We're excited about this investment in the fast-growing segment of the plant-based protein market," Tu said in a statement Thursday.

Shares of Tyson fell 80 cents, or less than 1%, to close Thursday at $85.26.

Business on 09/06/2019

Print Headline: Tyson invests in faux shrimp

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