Open Blue feeding growing demand for cobia in Europe and Asia
Cobia farming and marketing firm Open Blue has made a significant investment in technology in its Panama City, Panama production facility, allowing it to meet growing demand for fixed weight and customized portions
The USD 2 million (EUR 1.7 million) investment will allow it to make frozen cobia portions available to customers globally, Bernie Leger, vice president of sales and marketing for Open Blue, told SeafoodSource.
Open Blue added Marel cutting technology, enabling high-speed production of fresh and frozen exact weight cobia portions; a Praxair cryogenic freezing tunnel that allows for the rapid freezing of portions, fillets and other products; and new packaging equipment.
The plant enhancements have “enabled us to really get going on the frozen side of the business as well,” Leger said. “In Europe, 50 percent to 60 percent of the total seafood market is sold frozen.”
Open Blue is seeing increased demand from retailers in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and France, and Open Blue expects more demand from Asian buyers in 2018, Leger said.
“With the fact that we are now capable of sending frozen product, [that] also gives us accessibly to China.” Leger said. “The cost of air shipping versus shipping at sea for frozen product is significantly different, so it makes us more competitive in the market.”
Publix Super Markets, which operates 1,156 grocery stores in the United States, is one of the first customers benefitting from Open Blue’s expanded portioning and filleting capabilities.
While Publix had already purchased Open Blue’s cobia portions, which it sells fresh at its seafood counters, Open Blue was using a third-party processor. Now, Open Blue is filleting, portioning, and packing six-ounce portions in a modified atmosphere pack.
“We have gone through the testing, and now our first volume order is into Publix,” Leger said. “We are doing business with other retailers, but Publix is by far the largest.”
Open Blue also recently became the world’s first cobia supplier to achieve four-star Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP). The supplier’s processing plants, farm sites, hatcheries and feed mills are all BAP-certified.