By Chuck Anderson
Published on Friday, March 20, 2015
I know. The event is Seafood Expo North America. I am trying, but it may be a while longer before this old dog stops calling it the Boston seafood show. Here are my thoughts and notes coming out of this year’s expo. It snowed, rained, and became blustery cold. It is the seafood show like usual. Maybe if they change the weather, the date, or location, I will remember the name change.
I spent more time walking the show with others, including several first time attendees. It is great to see the reaction of people who love this business and attend the show for the first time.
There seemed to be more booths from Chinese and other East Asian producers. The Asian booths were more dispersed this year. The style and approach of many Asian exhibitors is different. Most rely on photos and handouts more than live samples. I assume getting live samples to Boston in good shape is a challenge. The sales people are less aggressive and get less interaction, but can be very informative if you want to learn about the products. I noticed more products and vendors from Spain. It has always been a very eclectic, international show, and this year was no different.
I noticed more value added, ready to cook products including cakes, burgers, and paella. Marinated and encrusted salmon and tilapia products are popular.
Booths and products I noticed:
- Pacifico Aquaculture from Mexico is producing farm raised striped bass. These are real striped bass, morones saxatilis, not hybrid striped bass. The body shape was that of wild striped bass (Maryland rockfish), but interestingly, the lower lateral stripes on the sides of the fish were broken. They showed farmed Pacific white sea bass, actractoscion nobilis. This could be a source of year round supply of these normally wild species.
- Presteve Foods from Wheatley Canada had attractive retail bags of freshwater lake fish including walleye, yellow perch, and smelts. I don’t think these are new, but still a nice way to offer these great varieties with lower shrink than fresh or thawed presentation.
- Shurefoods offered a new item with fresh raw blue crabmeat. The crabs are a callinectes genus from Mexico. The product looks like sausage in vacuum packages, but could have many applications for value added products in retail and food service applications. I would love to spend time with a good chef working with this product. Founder, Gabe Dough, says the meat extraction process is done by pressing the uncooked raw crab body. It is new and patented, and virtually free from shell and cartilage.
- National Fish and Seafood is offering a New Zealand freshwater king salmon. Production is limited and pricey, but could be a nice in and out for an upscale retail seafood program. The salmon is reportedly in one Whole Foods division.
- Ashman manufacturing from Virginia Beach Virginia produces rubs, marinades, and sauces for foodservice and in retail packs. I like the bourbon maple and bourbon chipotle hot sauce. The gluten free red wine dijon marinade also looks good. There are several options for seafood marinades, but many retailers could benefit from some unique flavors on an in an out basis. Some retailers just forget about these product lines because it is a grocery department ring. Unique varieties of rubs, sauces, marinades, and dips can drive additional trial and sales.
- Nuts over fish has retail packed nut crust offerings such as macadamia, pistachio, and almond nut toppings. nutsoverfish.com
- Schafer Fisheries from Thomson Illinois are pushing all things carp. They are harvesting tens of millions of lbs of fresh water carp every year, including millions of lbs of invasive Asian carp. The carp is sold whole fresh or frozen. There is big potential for their mechanically separated carp meat. It is sold in generic, non retail packed 1lb chubs that look like ground beef chubs. The chubs of carp meat sell for about $1.50lb. That is boneless, skinless protein for under $2.00lb, and it is socially responsible. It is kinda like selling lion fish. Schafer is also experimenting with a seasoned carp chili meat. I am thinking burgers, fish cakes, soups, stuffing, and tacos.
- PEI Mussel Kings offered Mussels in Minutes. These are live mussels with diced vegetables in a MAP package. The bags are attractive and a great way to offer live mussels with less shrink. Mussels are a popular seafood of today, with as much poetential for growth as any product or category in seafood. We have to find the right way to provide mussels to North American consumers. This is a step in the right direction.
- The National Aquaculture Association has great FREE materials for retailers to educate employees and customers about sustainable, responsibly raised US seafood. The website is a good place to direct customers to. The latest tool is an extensive retail manual. Go to thenaa.net or email Linda O’Dierno at email@example.com for the latest educational tools for retailers.
- Sun Shrimp from St James Florida is growing white shrimp in Florida in a recirculating greenhouse system. Price is strong at $10.50lb for retail packed 26-30ct shell on headless shrimp. The shrimp are sweet, with a dark raw color, and a very bright red cooked color. The color is not quite as dark as some Belize grown whites, but much darker than everyday imported whites.
- Stokes Fish from Leesburg Florida are selling imported wild tilapia. Wild tilapia has a nice ring to it.
- I saw one of the best fresh fish variety displays I have ever seen at the Samuels booth. There were likely over 100 species beautifully displayed in a series of refrigerated european style cases.
-Seafood America is offering a new Dockside signatures line. The line is all natural value added seafood including crab cakes, two packed in a MAP retail package. The line will also include some creative ideas including crab stuffed crapes and seafood lasagna.
- Salty Seas from Florida have a 1lb frozen retail vac pack bag of US grown hardshell clams and mussels. It is the only US grown retail frozen clams I know of.
Here is free advice for new attendees or any attendee. This advice is absolutely worth what you pay for it.
Take time to ask questions at the show booths to learn about the markets, the products, and how they are produced. Seeing new ideas and products is great, but learning first hand from the hands on producers is invaluable. You can’t google or Wiki that kind of insight on a handheld. There is nothing like face to face interaction and knowledge gathering. Even if they are not making a sale, most exhibitors enjoy in depth interaction, instead of people looking for a sample, a freebie, or just looking. They learn from attendee questions too.
If you can attend the Expo for two or three days, spend the extra money and get a full conference pass. The conference sessions are very informative, good for networking, and a great way to get off your feet between show floor walks. If you attend for three days, plan time to take in a plant visit or two of nearby seafood operations. Ask your current suppliers for a visit, or ask a supplier that you could do business with for a tour. Site visits are often the highlight for attendees. The first hand experience of visiting a seafood processing plant can't be duplicated by a You Tube video. Another bonus of a full conference pass is attending the New England food show. There are lots of great samples, creative displays, and again, eager folks to learn from.