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LIVE FROM SENA: Plenty of Fish in the Sea


In the immediate wake of the 2016 Seafood Expo North America, the overwhelming impression is of bounty. As always, there was a plethora of product to sample, with plenty of standout items. Traversing the show floor at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this week, Progressive Grocer noted even more breaded/crusted offerings than in past years, with shrimp, crab, clams, calamari, oysters, catfish, cod, tilapia, grouper, haddock and rainbow trout all getting the crunchy treatment, some in the form of bite-sized chunks. Also observed: a continuing trend towards zesty spices, sauces and marinades, with Southwestern flavors – as evidenced by the fish tacos served up by Miramar, Fla.-based Regal Springs, which donated 5 pounds of tilapia for every taco sampled to hunger relief nonprofit SeaShare – and sriracha particularly prevalent.

At the National Fish & Seafood booth, Nancy Peterson, VP of marketing at the Gloucester, Mass.-based company, was particularly excited about the company’s newest product introduction under its Matlaw’s brand: the seven-SKU Big Bag Value line, which Peterson noted offers on-trend flavor, variety and affordable price in clear, super-sized bilingual (English and Spanish) packaging enabling customers to see just what they’re purchasing. Among the products in the convenient frozen line are Shrimp Jalapeño Mac & Cheese Bites, leveraging consumer interest in breaded, bite-sized, spicy items. National Fish & Seafood is considering adding a lobster option to the line, according to Peterson, who adds that the company gets many of its ideas for retail products from items developed for foodservice. “That’s worked very well for us,” she asserted.

Although the company has focused most of its promotions around Lent, with on-shelf TPRs and big display programs featuring bunkers of product, it’s beginning to look at other opportunities, such as a recent Super Bowl-themed co-promotion with Weber Grills, which Peterson said the company hoped to expand to capitalize on year-round grilling occasions.

New from Alaskan Jack’s Seafood Corp., the Frontier Harvest Alaskan Jack’s Gold line spotlights premium Alaskan wild-caught Sockeye Salmon in two spicy SKUs: Pineapple Teriyaki marinade and Caribbean Jerk dry rub seasoned.  These additions follow an expanded offering last fall of three flavored Pacific line-caught flavored cod products: Frontier Harvest Alaskan Jack’s Lemon Herb Butter Cod (marinade), Chili Lime Cod (dry rub) and Sriracha Cod (dry rub). Additionally, in common with National Fish & Seafood, the company has its eye on sales beyond the traditional Lenten season, having rolled out a range of summer grilling products: Frontier Harvest Alaskan Jack’s Blackened Heat and Sweet Mesquite dry-rub enhanced Salmon Burgers, and an assortment of 1.25-pound whole Keta Filets flavored with Blackened Heat, Citrus Pepper and Louisiana Style dry rubs.

“We remain committed to the expanded line offerings as we initially planned in our brand strategy, and have additional species/flavors yet to launch in 2016,” said Steven Chen, CEO and president of Alaskan Jack’s Seafood Corp., a division of Yihe Corp., a Chinese company with U.S. offices in Pasadena, Calif. “This has been critical in our successful strategy to promote repeat purchases, and drive additional sales into the category.”

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Beaver Street Fisheries (BSF) was in town to show off some of its latest products, including the Sea Best Shrimp & Crab Pot, an all-in-one-bag frozen solution offering a combination of shrimp, crab and mussels, along with a special seasoning blend. Also new from the company are additions to its frozen Sea Best and Sea Best Signature lines: Oven Ready Breaded Tilapia Loins and value-added Crab Stuffed Shrimp, respectively. The product has been rolled out in “a select market with a select retailer” for Lent, according to Marketing Director Bluzette Carline, adding that the company had different concepts in bag format currently in R&D.

Meanwhile, on the immediate BSF horizon is a frozen microwave-only Soup Bowls line in two authentic no-MSG varieties, to which consumers just add water and heat: Spicy Tom Yum Shrimp Wonton and Shrimp Wonton Soup. Carline described the upcoming line, which should hit stores in the next couple of months, as a first for the company.

She also offered her take on the profusion of breaded products at the show, noting that as well as offering convenience to consumers in frozen heat-and-eat varieties, such items had definite kid appeal and provided interest in the forms of crunchy texture and additional flavor to the mild white fish species currently popular in the United States.

Packaging, Marketing, Software Innovations

Aside from new food products, there were many other innovations on display at the 2016 Seafood Expo North America. Duncan, S.C.-based Sealed Air was there with its highly permeable, leakproof Cryovac 10K OTR bag, which meets FDA regulations for oxygen transmission rate (OTR) of fresh fish. Kari Dawson-Ekeland, Sealed Air’s director of marketing center of store food care, pointed out that although the technology has been around for a couple of years, its latest iteration was in the form of a skin pack with a new semi-rigid bottom, enabling consumers to flip the package over to inspect the underside of the fish. Items such as cod, tilapia and salmon can also be packaged with the 10K OTR material on cedar boards, and whole fish can be frozen in the skin and shipped to retailers with no loss of freshness, she added.

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board had a “success story” to relate regarding its co-marketing program, according to Executive Director Karen Profita, who explained that one Northeastern 189-store grocery chain taking part in the initiative went through a six-month supply of shrimp in a mere three months. Although the program is currently concentrating on the target markets of Chicago; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Dallas; Houston; and Orlando, Fla. – all locations whose residents “are predisposed to love Louisiana” and pay visits there, Profita noted – expansion to additional markets will be considered if opportunities arise.

Newly installed Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser was also on hand at the Louisiana Seafood booth to talk about the state’s recovery from the devastating 2010 BP oil spill and drive home the importance of retailers promoting and selling U.S.-sourced seafood. To that end, Nungesser expressed interest in “revisiting” an initiative at military commissaries, since “our military bases should be using products from the U.S.A.” – not just from Louisiana, he emphasized, but also from all across the country.

Noting that his company is “moving heavily into analytics,” Phil Werdal, CEO of Seattle-based Trace Register, discussed the impending launch of its “bleeding-edge” software solution, Traceability Plus (TR +) Analytics, which will enable users to make use of supply chain data from multiple sources relating to products, orders, trading partners and internal operations, with the worthy aim of providing fresher, sustainable fish to customers. Now in a testing phase, the solution will become available in the second quarter of 2016.

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