Alaska Symphony of Seafood returns, adds new categories

Published on
September 1, 2021
Barnacle Foods’ Bullwhip Hot Sauce – made with kelp – was a triple winner at the 2020 Alaska Symphony of Seafood.

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition is making a return.

On 31 August, the Wrangell, Alaska, U.S.A.-based Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation issued a call for entries into the 2021-22 Alaska Symphony of Seafood, with a deadline of 4 October.

“AFDF is thrilled to host the Symphony again after our one-year postponement due to COVID-19,” AFDF Executive Director Julie Decker told SeafoodSource. “We recognize the event is as important as ever, as changes in seafood demand due to COVID have required seafood companies to pivot and adjust to the marketplace.”

The first-place winners from each category will receive booth space at the 2022 Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, taking place 13 to 15 March, 2022, as well as comped entries into SENA’s Seafood Excellence Awards. Alaska Air Cargo will also provide airfare to and from the trade show.

This year, the Symphony competition is expanding to feature Salmon and Whitefish product categories in addition to prizes for best products for retail, Foodservice, and in the Beyond the Plate category for non-food items. Product entries can enter into all qualified categories and are eligible for multiple awards.

The competition’s awards ceremony will be held in Juneau, Alaska, in February 2022, allowing the display and sampling of products by the Alaska legislature and other special guests. Special awards will include a Grand Prize, Seattle People’s Choice award, a Juneau People’s Choice award, and a Bristol Bay Choice award, which give members of the public who attend one of the contests’ three open houses a chance to voice their preferences.

“The new categories will allow more opportunities for promotion and recognition, including increased exposure for products out of Bristol Bay,” AFDF said in a press release.

At the Symphony’s open house in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., taking place 17 November, the products in the competition will be prepared and displayed by professional culinary staff. Following the judging, a tasting will be held for all entrants, seafood industry invitees, sponsors, the press, and the judges. The AFDF said the event is contingent upon the situation in relation to COVID-19 remaining under control locally and regionally. 

“The pandemic persists to contribute uncertainty to planning large events. AFDF will continue to monitor the COVID-19 health crisis and will provide updates to industry and partners on the 2021-2022 competition and events,” AFDF said. “Things can change for both events, depending upon the turns that COVID take,” Decker said. “We also will be looking at COVID mitigation measures, if the events do take place in person.”

Previous Symphony of Seafood winners have leveraged the publicity of their victories to achieve increased sales, AFDF said. Trident Seafoods’ Protein Noodles took two top prizes in 2018 and went on to have great commercial success, and Barnacle Foods’ Bullwhip Hot Sauce – made with kelp – was a triple winner in 2020 and the company said it has received significant market exposure from the contest result.

“The Alaska Symphony of Seafood encourages all seafood processors to prioritize innovation in product development,” Barnacle Foods said.

Also new for this year’s contest, the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) has come on board this year as a new sponsor for the competition. BBRSDA has committed to a three-year partnership with AFDF to help expand the reach of the Symphony, “recognizing the value of the event to the vision that diversified markets and innovative products are imperative to the ex-vessel value of the fishery,” AFDF said.

“In recent years, the fleet has invested heavily in quality improvements and it is paying off,” AFDF said. “Increased quality at the point of harvest improves quality throughout the supply chain. This allows higher-quality value-added products, which is truly something to promote and celebrate.”

Other major sponsors of the contest include the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Lineage Logistics, Trident Seafoods, Marine Stewardship Council, Northwest Fisheries Association, Alaska Air Cargo, At-Sea Processors Association, and the United Fishermen of Alaska.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation

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