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What was new at the 2017 Seafood Expo North America, held March 19-21 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center? Many items and concepts reflecting trends that have continued to hold sway, not only in seafood, but across the food industry.
Take Warminster, Pa.-based Seafood America’s latest product line, launched under its Dockside Classics brand: a four-SKU line of convenient refrigerated soups – two crab selections, two chowders – with a 45-day shelf life, available in transparent packaging as well as in bulk. The company was also showing three SKUs in its fresh Tapas Tonight line, mini crab, lobster or Cajun shrimp cakes also with a 45-day shelf life and likewise packaged in a way to display the product inside. Sales & Marketing Manager Donna Snyder affirmed the enduring popularity of clear packaging with consumers.
Bluzette Carline, marketing director at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Beaver Street Fisheries (BSF), which offers the Sea Best brand, agreed that convenience and clear packaging are important considerations for shoppers. In addition to breaded coconut shrimp, butterfly shrimp and popcorn shrimp items that the company has reformulated to make oven-ready for greater ease of preparation, BSF packages its frozen fillets in clear bags, which Carline notes works better in certain markets as a bulk value product, as consumers of such products want to see exactly what they’re buying.
Portsmouth, N.H.-based High Liner Foods has come out with a new line of 10 ready-to-cook Sea Cuisine products that plays on many of these trends as well: transparent skin pack trays to show off the item within, color-coded labels for easy selection, and preparation in under 30 minutes, together with adventurously flavored, globally diverse selections like Mango Habanero Tilapia and Sweet Sriracha Rubbed Salmon Skewers, and the promise of responsible sourcing.
Sean Brady, market development manager at Charlotte, N.C.-based Sealed Air Corp., knows that clarity, convenience and eco-friendliness are major seafood packaging components. The company has been developing its skin pack and tray products to enable consumers to see more of the product than ever before, including one solution in Sealed Air’s Darfresh line in which a piece of fish is vacuum-packed directly onto a plank that can go straight to the grill, Another exciting single-serve Darfresh item uses a wax-coated printable cardboard backing for greater sustainability. According to Brady, the latter item, which is lightweight and can even be pegboarded, will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.
When it comes to sustainability, Seattle-based Alaskan Leader might just leave most other seafood providers swimming in its wake. The company's fleet of ships uses the ecologically sound hook-and-line method to individually catch quality codfish that’s then processed and frozen within the hour to preserve its freshness. Alaskan Leader also makes sure that absolutely nothing of its product goes to waste: Trimmings are made into Wild Alaskan Cod Crunchies, a dog treat with just one ingredient on the label: cod. Noted President Keith Singleton of the company’s operation, “No one’s doing what we do.” Regarding Alaskan Leader’s human-grade products, its retail line of frozen marinated cod in on-trend flavors appealing to a range of demographics – Garlic Pesto, Honey Teriyaki, Thai Curry, Chipotle Lime and Lemon Herb Butter -- is expanding nationally at Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco.
Quality is also much on the mind of Clinton Township, Mich.-based Seafood Analytics, whose Certified Quality Reader (CQR) is a handheld, noninvasive instantaneous screening and data collection device that uses electrical currents to provide objective cellular quality for seafood. The device measures how much the fish’s cells change over time depending on conditions. The measurements can be taken anywhere along the supply chain, including at retail.
The company is currently working with what it describes as a “top 10 global grocery chain” to boost the quality and freshness of its seafood at its distribution centers, including what species to order more or less of to avoid discards, according to co-founder Michael Liedtke. Seafood Analytics is also interested in getting retailers to display the Certified Quality Seafood logo on their in-store product so customers can be more confident in their purchases.
The New Kit Bag
In what looks to be a wave of the future, the burgeoning meal kit concept is seeping into the seafood category. Portland, Ore.-based Fishpeople won the retail product Seafood Excellence Award for one of the offerings in its new frozen meal kit line, which provides all of the ingredients and instructions to make a restaurant-quality entrée, along with a tracking code on the packaging to enable consumers to trace product back to its source.
As well as Fishpeople’s frozen take on the meal kit, there’s the Chef’s Menu program developed by Modesto, Calif.-based Cooking Made Easy. The company provides all ingredients for a meal for two except for the fresh protein, which is added by a retail partner and sold in a package branded under the retailer’s name, as in its collaboration with West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s. Chef’s Menu also offers a mix-and-match Create Your Own Meal Kit concept, in which ingredients to prepare a complete meal are merchandised with fresh protein, enabling shoppers at such venues as Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper’s Market 32 banner to customize the dozens of 15-minute recipes featured in the display along with the ingredients and protein. The vendor’s seafood meal kit selections at the show included Artichoke Mushroom Tilapia, Shrimp Scampi and Thai Coconut Mahi, all created by noted chefs.
Such ideas show the seafood category eagerly diving into new trends even as it works to deepen its engagement with consumers by giving them better versions of what they’ve already said they want.