By Steven Hedlund
Published on 30 August, 2011
SeafoodSource recently caught up with Scott Nichols about the launch of Verlasso™ salmon, a brand and trademark of AquaChile. The company is working to change the way people think about farmed salmon and develop a new category of “harmoniously raised” fish. In part two of a two-part interview, Nichols talks about the importance of education, product attributes, prices, salmon-farming practices and whether Verlasso salmon will raise the bar for the industry.
Click here to read part one, which ran on Tuesday.
Just how crucial is educating buyers, and consumers, when you’re trying to develop a new category of farmed salmon?
This is different that what people are used to. And so we need to have a discussion with people about that. And we have certainly found a great cohort of people for whom there is a really big interest in conscious cuisine. We want to communicate to them that Verlasso is providing fish with an FFDR (forage fish dependency ratio) of 1. We want to talk about our pen densities. And these are conversation that people aren’t used to having. So we do need to have those conversations with the people at the counters, and with the customers are well.
Describe the taste and texture of Verlasso salmon.
The fat content of our fish is at 11 to 12 percent. Wild-caught fish have a fat content of about 8 percent. And most farmed fish have a fat content of 18 to 19 percent. So one of the things Verlasso is trying to do is provide a fish that is more like wild with respect to its texture and taste. We’re not wild-caught fish, but we’re not traditionally caught fish, and that requires a conversation with people. And that’s what we’re trying to do right now.
Will Verlasso salmon come at a premium price?
We are raising a very premium fish, and we also will also have a premium price for the fish. We believe that there are many people out there searching for fish in a new category that are harmoniously raised, and this will resonate with them. They will see that value. What we’re finding in our discussions with buyers is that they do recognize that the new category of harmoniously raised fish is, in fact, a new category, something different. So the conversations that we have with retailers are not necessarily comparisons with the prior categories, but they’re really new discussions about what the new category is.
What’s Verlasso’s production forecast for 2011 and 2012?
We want to provide enough fish for the initial city launch. As our capabilities allow us, we will expand that. In particular, what we hope to do is for people with whom we are partnering is that we will be able to continue to meet their needs as they see Verlasso expanding.
Is it your hope that Verlasso’s practices will raise the bar for the salmon-farming industry worldwide?
Yes, we do hope to set an example and raise performance with our new approach. To us, of course, harmonious aquaculture is an ethic that would be very useful if broadly embraced. We realize fully that we see this from a lens that includes years of our own research and ongoing collaboration with the NGO community. But consider this: If the industry as a whole could focus on the idea of continuous improvement of practices, which is a foundational tenet of harmonious aquaculture, imagine how quickly we could solve problems? Actually, aquaculture, particularly salmon aquaculture, is a relatively new business. Changes are happening in many areas. We have every hope and expectation that Verlasso will be successful, and that we will plant the seeds for further change and improvement in the industry for generations to come.
As Verlasso salmon goes to market, what does this accomplishment mean to you on a personal level?
I’ve been working years on this. I have a really, really strong belief that as we interact with our planet that we mustn’t treat it as it’s infinite; it’s not. And we need to adopt practices for growing good and healthy food that are in harmony with the environment. We need to leave a minimal footprint as possible. This is something that’s meant a lot to me for a long time. I’m thrilled to be doing this. And it gives me, without sounding overly sappy, a chance for me to live my love. It’s important that we leave a legacy for our kids. I want to have salmon for generations, as much as for the next 10 years. It’s a dream come true for me.