Boston blog: Hitting the show floor running


April Forristall, assistant editor

Published on
March 10, 2013

3:30 p.m. — “Why not now?” That was what Pacific Seafood Group’s VP of central procurement, Mark Bowen, told me when I asked why the company decided now was the best time to launch its own operation in Chile.

The Portland, Ore.-based company announced the opening of its Santiago, Chile operation last week and Bowen said being closer to the source will allow for a lot better communication and understanding of what customers in the U.S. need.

“We’ll understand the market better with direct communication, which will translate to more sales and a better market,” Bowen said.

3 p.m. — In 2011, the U.S. became the No. 1 importer of Scottish salmon, in part due to the struggles faced by Chilean producers. I talked to David Sandison and John Carlill of Scottish Development International to see how the country plans on keeping that position.

The country’s salmon suppliers are going in with the aim to promote the product as premium but still at a reasonable price. Companies can also tout the strict standards Scotland has in place for aquaculture. Carlill also said companies recognize the need for more value-added products to get U.S. consumers to buy more seafood. To that end, Scotland Food & Drink assembled a variety of recipes to show Scottish salmon’s versatility available at the Scotland pavilion, Booth 2253.

2 p.m. — The climate for mergers and acquisitions in the seafood industry is looking up, according to expert panelists of the SeaFood Business Summit.

“Seafood has a great growth profile compared to other protein sectors. The USDA’s goal for seafood demand this year for the U.S. consumer is to double it. So, as an investor you step back and say, today the USDA isn’t promoting diary, they’re promoting seafood. We’re looking for industries that have the wine at your back, i.e., the government at your back,” said Ejnar Knudsen, managing member of AGR Partners.

But that’s not to say investors aren’t still wary of the seafood industry.

“Our concern is that the dairy industry went this way, all these companies are trying to be more green or more sustainable or more organic and it causes confusion with the consumer, and that creates more confusion with people like our investors,” Knudsen said. “One of my concerns is the industry has some great facts but are the companies and trade associations taking those facts and actually getting them out there as much as the misperceptions and incorrect facts?”

12 p.m. — I’ll be at the SeafoodSource/SeaFood Business media booth (No. 1300) until 2 p.m. Got news? Stop by and share it! 

11:15 a.m. — At Mini-GOAL, there was a similar message regarding ways to increase seafood consumption from Scott Williams, manager of quality assurance and product development at BJ’s Wholesale Club.

“It’s got to be more value-added and pre-prepared. Putting out product people can take home and cook and serve,” said Williams. “There’s still a lot of ‘let’s just sell them a loin’ and people don’t want to do that as much. The meat industry has been really good with pre-rubs and the pork industry with cook-in bag-type products. It’s not what fish we sell, it’s how we serve it to them and we have to find a way to make fish as easy.”

The Mini-GOAL conference also assessed the outcome of GOAL 2012 in Bangkok and looked ahead to the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s upcoming GOAL 2013 in Paris. One issue that’s still keeping industry insiders up at night is the sustainability of fish feed and fishmeal. The topic was covered in 2012 and will be on the agenda again this year.

10:30 a.m. — Look to what chefs are doing now to see what will be important to retailers in the future. That was just one piece of advice from the Killer Demos and Successful Merchandising conference this morning.

Celebrity Chef Rick Tarantino and Warren Thayer, editor of Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine shared the What’s Hot Chef Survey showing that locally sourced seafood and sustainable seafood both made it into the top ten.

“Chefs set the pace — take a look at what’s happening at the restaurant level,” said Tarantino. “People don’t understand what to do with seafood today. They order seafood at restaurants, they don’t cook it at home. So they look to chefs for these types of trends because they dictate way before the consumers dictates what happens in the seafood industry.” 

9:30 a.m. — Day 2 of the show hasn't even officially begun yet and the news is already rolling in.

The National Fisheries Institute announced the formation of The Salmon Council. The council’s mission is to provide a strong voice to promote all salmon in the U.S. market.

“We will seek a ‘one voice’ approach to work on joint projects designed to grow the U.S. market,” said Rick Speed of Icicle Seafoods and the council chairman. “We have a unique opportunity to work together to increase salmon consumption in this country.”

Inaugural members of the Salmon Council include: Icicle Seafoods, Inland Seafood, King & Prince Seafood Corporation, Marine Harvest USA, Mazzetta Company LLC, Morey's Seafood International, LLC, The Norwegian Seafood Council and Seattle Fish Company.

“The Salmon Council’s first point of business is to review the existing U.S. consumer research and pinpoint where we can make an impact,” said Speed. “We encourage other companies in the market to join The Council.”

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