2022 Seafood Expo Global award-winners share insights into product innovation

Published on
May 3, 2022
A common theme unites the two winners of the grand prizes of the 2022 Seafood Excellence Awards - innovation.

Despite concentrating on different parts of the seafood marketplace, a common theme unites the two winners of the grand prizes of the 2022 Seafood Excellence Awards, presented 26 April at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain.

Dreaming up and then actually creating products never seen before in the seafood marketplace takes both organizational prioritization and individual devotion beyond the normal call of duty, according to Pescanova España International Marketing Director Nuria Vazquez Verela and GlobeXplore Export Sales Manager Romain Villedieu.

Pontevedra, Spain-based Pescanova won the Best Retail Product grand prize and the special award for innovation for its Salmon Noodles, and Rosporden, France-headquartered GlobeXplore took the grand prize for Best HORECA (hotel/restaurant/catering) Product for its Seaweed Spread – Yuzu and Ginger. Both companies have focused their efforts on getting potential consumers to try something new – not an easy task when it comes to seafood, according to a 2019 study by the Food Marketing Institute.

At the 2022 Seafood Expo North American in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., Pescanova touted a raft of new products, including a line of branzino with sauce, a Cape hake product, and a Protein Pasta made from Alaska pollock. In 2021, Pescanova introduced Toss & Serve Shrimp, Chilean Sea Bass Portions, and Cooked Octopus Tentacles as part of its “Value-Added 2.0” strategy, which is centered on creating products “that bring benefits to consumers through healthy, sustainably sourced products that are convenient,” according to Pescanova USA CEO Chris Maze.

With its global reach and vertical integration, Pescanova has the capability to integrate innovation into its entire operation, Maze told SeafoodSource. The company is focused on products that are prepared quickly in the oven or microwave and that are often accompanied by a premade sauce and vegetables provided as part of the meal.

The Protein Pasta was based on Pescanova's La Pasta del Mar line, a grouping of fish-based noodles developed by the company’s chef, Ángel León, and first launched in Spain in 2021. The prize-winning Salmon Noodles are also part of that line, along with cod noodles and hake spaghetti with squid ink. The products have found success in Spain and will soon be available in France and Germany, Vazquez Verela said.

“For us, a specialist in fish for more than 50 years, what we want is to work with care with each primary material, almost treating it as play, and we work until we have something we think is both new and interesting and accessible to our customers. That’s how we get to innovation – it’s a difficult but marvelous process,” Vazquez Verela told SeafoodSource. “We are in love with the sea and with making innovative fish products, want more people to try it and love it, all our innovation is geared toward making seafood more accessible and desirable for customers.”

Pescanova begins its product-creation process with the assumption that “everyone knows they should eat more seafood for their health, but that many people don’t know how to buy it, prepare it, deal with it,” Vazquez Verela said.

“The principal barriers are they don’t know how to cook seafood and so they don’t like to eat it at home,” she said. “[La Pasta del Mar] is designed specifically for people who don’t like to eat fish. It’s an easy, healthy, and delicious way to cook and eat seafood.”

Vazquez Verela said she believes the Salmon Noodles won the grand prize because the product leans into consumers’ comfort with salmon, but presents it in a format they are familiar with and used to cooking with at home.

“Salmon is the most universally known species of fish, its eaten around the globe. It has a familiar flavor and its own unique color – pink is completely recognizable by the consumer as being made from salmon. And that color makes it both desirable and interesting,” Vazquez Verela said.

Moving forward, Pescanova will continue to focus on making accessible seafood products geared toward the average supermarket customer, including a deeper foray into children’s products, Vazquez Verela said.

“With everything we know about the sea and about the global customer, we think we’re in a great position to develop the kinds of products that are specifically intended to draw in those who say they don’t like it,” she said.

GlobeXplore is also on a mission to widen the audience for seafood – in its case, seaweed in particular. Villedieu said the company, which also won the 2019 Seafood Excellence Global award for health and nutrition, is built around innovation by necessity, because it has the goal of moving seaweed from a niche to a mass-market product.

“Innovation is the DNA of our company,” Villedieu said. “We want to make seaweed accessible to everybody, and to let them know that seaweed is not just good for you but tastes amazing.”

Seaweed, Villedieu said, should not just be the realm of fine dining. 

“We want everyone who shops at the supermarket or goes to any restaurant – not just Michelin-starred restaurants – be able to have access to seaweed products," Villedieu said. "And the way we are doing that is to make our products both convenient as well as versatile and flavorful.”

Outside of Asia, seaweed – and especially higher-end products made from seaweed – were previously almost exclusively eaten in fancy restaurants, according to Villedieu. But Villedieu said it helps that Japanese flavors, which meld well with seaweed, are becoming more recognized and popular globally. And a pandemic-era trend of adventurous consumption when it comes to food has also helped. The company has tried to take advantage of that newfound open-mindedness to spread awareness of seaweed’s positive attributes, as GlobeXplore sees its educational efforts as going hand-in-hand with its product-creation work, Villedieu said.

“More people want to eat seaweed these days. We are trying to give them advice on how to use it. They can enjoy seaweed in more uses than they realize – maybe they start eating it with fish but then they realize it’s also great as a snack on toast,” he said. “Since the company was founded five years ago, we have been teaching people how to consume seaweed. People know more and more that seaweed is good for them but they still don’t know how to consume it. We want to give them everything they need to know how to consume it. Our goal is to make seaweed to be considered like a vegetable."

Photo courtesy of Cliff White/SeafoodSource

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