By Steven Hedlund
Published on Thursday, March 22, 2012
In about a month, the winners of the Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition will be unveiled during a ceremony immediately following Day 1 of the European Seafood Exposition.
The winners are always encouragingly enthusiastic about the recognition, and it’s a joy interviewing them at the ceremony. It’s especially rewarding for the smaller outfits that are trying to stand out amongst a competitive field. For them, winning such an award opens doors with retail and foodservice buyers looking for the next big seller.
For the judges, narrowing in on the winners is no simple task. It’s a lot of hard work, and there’s a lot of criteria to weigh in on — overall eating experience, marketability, convenience, nutritional value, packaging and originality.
The judges are, of course, the true experts. But I thought I’d take a stab at what I view as the trends among this year’s 37 Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists, as the competition enters its 11th year.
• Be original: There’s no question that originality wins over the judges. In three of the past five competitions, one of the two grand-prize winners also picked up an award for originality. They are Spain’s Angulas Aguinaga for its ready-to-heat surimi seafood meals in 2007, Germany’s Deutsche See for its Salmon in a Wooden Leaf in 2009 and the UK’s Grant’s Smokehouse for its Smoked Salmon Bacon in 2010. Only in 2008 and 2011 did a grand-prize winner fail to seize an award for originality.
• United Kingdom, Belgium well represented: Among this year’s 37 Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists, seven are from a UK-based company and another seven are from a Belgian-based company. Representing the UK is Hebridean Smokehouse Ltd. with three entries and The Big Prawn Co. with four entries, while Belgium is represented by Vichiunal Europe, Seagull Appetit and Heiploeg Group, each with one entry, and N. Parlevliet and Marine Harvest, each with two entries. This is no surprise, as, over the past five Seafood Prix d’Elite competitions, a product from a UK-based company has captured eight of the 35 awards, followed by a Belgian-based company with six.
• This Dish is hot: India’s Dish Hospitality is on a hot streak. Including the Seafood Excellence Awards at the International Boston Seafood Show, which is held in March, Dish Hospitality has placed in three of the past four competitions. Its Prawn Lollipop won a convenience award at Seafood Prix d’Elite in 2010 and best new foodservice product at Seafood Excellence in 2011, and its Oriental Shrimp Nest won best new foodservice product at Seafood Excellence in 2012. Dish Hospitality has four products among this year’s 37 Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists — Mini Squid Shrimp Paella, International Shrimp S’cones, Shrimp Rice Moon Cakes and the aforementioned Oriental Shrimp Nest. I wouldn’t bet against Dish Hospitality coming away with another award in Brussels next month.
• Party time: I’m picking up on a theme among year’s 37 Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists (or maybe it’s just spring fever setting in). There’s a festive aura to a handful of the finalists, particularly Shellfish Jelly Shots (pictured) from The Big Prawn Co. Shellfish Jelly Shots are cocktail-inspired “shooters” that are “ideal for parties.” Each chilled, 264-gram package contains 12 shooters in three varieties — King Prawn Mojito, Crayfish Margarita & Mussel Bloody Mary. What a way to celebrate the spring and summer months.
• Très chic: Another theme that I’m picking up on among this year’s 37 Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists is the quantity of colorful, trendy, almost fashionable packaging. Standing out is en-K de caviar® — a portable, slim, 15-gram tin of Osetra caviar, complete with spoon, that can be neatly tucked away in a purse or shirt pocket. Produced by France’s Kaviari, en-K de caviar® is described as “a whimsical touch to the traditional world of caviar.” The tins come in six colors — black, gold, silver, indigo blue, apple green and fuchsia pink. Each color is designed to reflect a different mood. For example, the indigo blue tin is ideal for a day at the pool, the apple green tin is fitting for an afternoon picnic, while the silver tin is perfect for a night out on the town. Très chic.
• Down the hatch: If it’s good health you seek, it’s good health you’ll get with VITA-ALL® — a non-carbonated energy drink made with seaweed and juice from different fruits, such as blackcurrant. It’s enriched with vitamins, anti-oxidants and caffeine. Produced by Jens Møller Products ApS of Denmark, the drink comes in a 500-milliliter plastic bottle. This new product is definitely a candidate to take home the health and nutrition award, which would probably make it the first seafood-based drink to win a Seafood Prix d’Elite award.
• Snack away: Europeans aren’t strangers to seafood-based snacks. But there’s still plenty of room for growth in this category. One seafood-based snack that stands out among the 37 Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists is Salmettos. The salmon-based, wafer-thin chips are naturally flavored, cured and dried. They’re healthy — high in protein and low in saturated fat. Produced by Vichiunai Europe NV of Belgium and marketed under the Vici brand, Salmettos come in three flavors — Italian, Jaula and Piri-Piri. Yum!
Editor’s note: Seafood Prix d’Elite is organized by Diversified Business Communications of Portland, Maine, which also produces the European Seafood Exposition and publishes SeafoodSource.com.