Google/Alphabet's fancy on-campus cafeterias are about to get a whole lot more cutting edge in the realm of futuristic foodstuffs. According to Wired, starting in 2017, Google chefs have pledged to start serving employees synthetic shrimp made from algae.
Perhaps inspired by the 1973 movie Soylent Green in which food is manufactured from plankton (and, of course, people), the company has turned to creating a shrimp simulacrum from red algae. "New Wave Foods, founded in 2015, is a leader in plant-based seafood that is healthier and better for the environment," the company website explains. "New Wave products are high in clean nutrients and deliver a culinary experience consumers expect without the devastating environmental impact of commercial fishing."
New Wave's founder and CEO, Dominique Barnes, lives in San Francisco and has a Masters in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In launching a company that is working to replace traditional seafood with something less harmful to the environment, Barnes clearly has placed an emphasis on sustainability. That doesn't mean, however, that she thinks her product will automatically be a slam dunk for consumers.
“One hurdle that I do see is in our perception of algae," she told Wired. "When I talk to people, usually they’re like, ‘What are you talking about? This is pond scum.’ ” Well, maybe yes and maybe no. “You probably already consumed something this week that has an algae ingredient,” she says.
Whether or not the coders of Google are ready from some disruption on their lunch plates, investors are ready to fund it. Forbes reports that the market for meat substitutes is tracking to surpass $5 billion in the next few years, and Recode notes that even Google tried (and failed) to buy meat-substitute company Impossible Foods last year for anywhere from $200 to $300 million.
Indeed, other companies manufacturing meat analogs have already found success — Eater reports that just this past May a veggie burger that apparently "bleeds" sold out at Whole Foods within an hour.
So, in the case of the meatless shrimp, it appears Google is actually following a trend and not setting it. Either way, come 2017, employees snacking away in the company cafeteria on free shrimp while coming up with the next Google Plus may be actually making the world a better place — even if not in the manner they imagine.