Walking the show floor at Seafood Expo North America, held March 15-17 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, attendees could encounter many exciting new value-added products and effiicient equipment solutions that are sure to make a splash (pun intended) at retail this year.
At the National Fish and Seafood Inc. booth, for instance, the Glouscester, Mass.-based company was touting such value-added SKUs as its Matlaw's brand Southern Country Fried Shrimp, which Nancy Peterson, Matlaw’s VP marketing, noted to Progressive Grocer was "unique to the market, more restaurant-quality." The item was sampled at the expo's New Product Showcase on Monday, March 16.
Peterson added that the brand, whose 9-pack of stuffed clams is the No. 1-selling seafood appetizer in the country, was branching out into other categories to offer “a full scope in the seafood section.” Also at the show from Matlaw’s were Seafoood Paella, Buffalo Popcorn Shrimp, Salmon Burgers and Jumbo Butterfly Breaded Shrimp.
At lunch over a "tapas plate" of the new eight-SKU Alaskan Jack’s line of wild-caught keta salmon, Mike Klein, VP of integrated services at Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Resource 1, the sales and marketing arm of Yihe Corp., noted that the company opted for strong, identifiable, diverse fusion flavors with clean ingredient statements, including the downright fiery Blackened Heat – the line's top variety – and the sweetly mild Asian BBQ, after extensive consumer testing. "We get that feedback and we run with it," said Klein, adding that certain items were more popular than others in particular regions, such as Lime Chipotle in the Southwest, or the Mediterranean-inspired Tuscan Garden in the Northeast. The salmon is sold with skin on, which Klein explained facilitates grilling and adds "flavorful fat." Later that same day, March 15, Alaskan Jack's took the Best Retail Product title at the expo's annual Seafood Excellence Awards.
Additionally, Yihe, whose U.S.-bound items were previously packaged in China and then shipped here, will now be packaged in the United States, according to Klein.
Meanwhile, Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board (LSPMB) served up some fresh ideas, including a greater effort to promote the state's somewhat underappreciated finfish, which include drum, sheephead and amberjack, along with its iconic shellfish. Karen Profeta, the board's executive director, told PG about the rollout of a Grocery Co-Marketing Program, under which, when a grocer confirms an order for product, LSPMB will commit co-marketing dollars equal to up to 10 percent of the order value, including co-branded advertising, digital efforts and on-premise materials. Profeta was particularly excited about blackboard-style signboards on display at the expo, and also mentioned such social media strategies as emailing tailored coupons to consumers within a 5-mile radius of a given store location, to integrate with retailers' marketing activities.
In the area of line extensions, a spokeswoman for The Saucy Fish Co., a British supplier, shared the latest addition to the sweet-and-savory brand -- Ready to Eat Salmon with Sticky Maple Dressing (like revenge, best served cold) -- now available at Hannaford. Bluzette Carline, marketing director at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Beaver Street Fisheries, noted the popularity of the company’s Sea Best Signature Lobster Au Gratin, which has been picked up by Publix Supermarkets, as well as growing interest in the supplier's Singles collection, which piloted in a convenience store in Beaver Street's home market and features interesting flavor profiles in complete meals for one, including the standout Scallop Linguine.
Some notable morsels tasted on the show floor (in no particular order) included Duck Trap River of Maine's Spruce Point Pastrami Smoked Salmon; Ecuadorian ceviche, Ruggiero's Calamari Fries; Greek dorade (a fish of the bream family) in a mild, lemon-infused sauce; Sunburst Trout Farms' Cold Smoked Rainbow Trout; Sea Watch International's Clam Caprese Salad; Southern Belle Mac 'n Cheese Stick(!); F.W. Bruce's Pecadish Crab; Camachaca's Abalone; Bumble Bee Superfresh Seared Ahi Tuna; Inland Market's Kale & Quinoa Wild Salmon Burgers with Lemon Dill Tartar Sauce; Louis Kemp's Sriracha Crab Delights; Clear Spring Foods' Parmesan Crusted Swai; and True North's Salmon Tenders.
The Right Equipment
Representatives were on hand from Elmwood Park, N.J..-based Sealed Air Corp. to provide information on its packaging innovations, which Market Development Manager Sean Brady affirmed were gaining momentum at retail – in fact, the company's seafood customers had doubled from last year, thanks to such items as cook-in-bag offerings and ovenable solutions.
Sealed Air recently joined forces with Rebel Fish, a brand of Miami-based Marine Harvest, to create the new salmon brand's distinctive microwaveable clear package (with an included separate sauce packet) enabling maximum transparency of product. New Bedford, Mass.-based seafood distributor Pier Fish, whose products come in the Cryovac Darfresh 10K OTR Vacuum Skin Package, enables retailers to purchase, thaw and sell fresh, previously frozen product all in the same packaging. According to Pier Fish, this application particularly appeals to retailers that lack a full-service seafood counter.
While MAP and skin packaging are both big at retail, the edge goes to skin packaging, according to Brady and Jim Belcher, who oversees retail market development at Sealed Air: there's no ice crystallization, it lends itself better to vertical display, it offers an enticing 3D presentation, and it's leakproof, the last of which, along with shrink, is one of retailers' chief preoccupations, noted Belcher. Among the applications on display was an attractive board/skin package.
As for the trays that fresh seafood offerings are often sold in, blue, black and white are still common options, but increasingly, "people like clear," asserted Belcher, along with such features as convenience and recyclability.
In other packaging news, Chicago-based flexible packaging manufacturer Coveris was showing its forming and non-forming film, which provides clarity, strength, resistance to punctures and a consistent grade with no tracking. The solution, which can also be used for meat, cheese and fruit, had received a name only a week earlier: Envio.
A similar versatility informs ProDew's Fog Mist, which maintains the optimal level of humidity for a product without getting the case wet and adds a full two days of shelf life. Although the system is already at use in seafood sections at Kroger, Walmart, Publix and others, the company noted that it also was beginning to be used in produce and floral departments.
For more about Seafood Expo North America, check out PG’s coverage of the Seafood Excellence Awards, the launch of Trace Register’s TR-Common Traceability Standards, and Blue North’s introduction of its Humane Harvest Initiative, as well as the action plan issued at the show by the Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud.