Credit: © John Kernick

Imitation crab is easy to find on grocery store shelves. If a recent startup has their way, shrimp could be the next seafood staple to get the “imitation” treatment – but these fake shrimp are far more innovative than their fake crab counterparts.

In just eight months, New Wave Foods is hoping to bring its shrimp replacement product to market in the form of breaded popcorn shrimp. What makes these not-quite-shrimp special is that, unlike imitation crab, they are completely devoid of any animal protein whatsoever. (Imitation crab is basically a well-colored and shaped fish ball.) Instead, New Wave’s shrimp are created from a mix of plant-based protein powder and red algae – the same algae shrimp eat that give them their pink color. “We’re not reproducing shrimp cells,” company cofounder Dominique Barnes told The Atlantic. “We use a process that's similar to baking a loaf of bread.”

Though algae shrimp appears to be more environmentally-friendly and ethical than the often slave-peeled shrimp found on the market, a big question remains: To borrow Barnes analogy, would people eat a loaf of bread if they knew it was made from algae?

New Wave claims they’ve nailed the appearance, taste and texture. And after trying the popcorn shrimp, a writer for Tech Insider said “the texture was almost perfect” while admitting that the taste didn’t even really matter since the dish was deep fried. If those claims are true, the biggest stigma will likely just be the fake shrimp’s algae base. But seriously, have you ever seen shrimp in the wild? They look like oversized sea bugs. Though algae shrimp sounds odd, is it any weirder than pulling the real little critters out of the ocean and eating them?