Alaska Symphony of Seafood returns with new categories, same innovative zeal
Since 1994, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) has celebrated innovative value-added products made from Alaska seafood through its Alaska Symphony of Seafood Awards. After going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition has returned for the 2021-2022 season – with some additional flair.
Several newly-minted awards accompany the prizes for the classic categories of Retail, Foodservice, Beyond the Plate – aimed at showcasing the best value-added product utilizing seafood waste or byproducts for applications outside of human consumption – and the Seattle People’s Choice, which was decided most recently by popular vote at the Seattle Open House in collaboration with the Northwest Fisheries Association on 17 November, 2021.
Among the categories debuted for this year’s contest are Whitefish, which honors the best Alaska whitefish product made with cod, pollock, halibut, flounder, or rockfish; Salmon, which seeks to recognize the best Alaska salmon product made with pink, sockeye, chum, king, or coho species; and Bristol Bay Choice, which spotlights the best sockeye salmon product presented by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA).
“We added new categories to give high quality products opportunities for recognition. This resulted in an increased number and variety of products submitted. What’s clear is that Alaska seafood companies are becoming increasingly nimble, tackling challenges and market changes with product innovation. Companies that entered products in the Symphony are leading the way with noteworthy and highly appealing new products,” Julie Decker, the executive director for AFDF, said of the new awards.
Taking first place in both the Retail and Salmon categories was Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ Echo Falls brand for its Smoked Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Tapas Slices. Sized to fit the diameter of leading cracker brands, the product taps into the growth of the appetizer category and consumer interest in seafood snacks and charcuterie boards at home. The offering boasts packaging with a large transparent window, making it a welcome addition to the refrigerator case for retailers and an accessible option for consumers, who can see exactly what they’re getting from the point-of-purchase, the company said.
“For our Tapas Slices, we are tapping into the cheese and charcuterie board trend," Ocean Beauty Seafoods Vice President of Retail Sales Ron Christianson told SeafoodSource. "This product is perfectly sized to fit on a cracker and pre-sliced, so it is as easy to add to a cheese board as other sliced meats. During the pandemic, consumers were looking for ways to make their own meals a bit more special, but without a lot of work. Now that we are starting to entertain in small groups, we want the same easy elegance. Our Tapas Slices fill the bill."
Ocean Beauty wasn’t alone in collecting multiple awards. Alaskan Leader Seafoods also doubled-up on honors by claiming the top prizes in both the Bristol Bay Choice and Seattle People’s Choice categories for its Wild Caught Bristol Bay Alaska Sockeye Salmon and Wild Caught All Natural Alaskan Sablefish (Black Cod), respectively.
As “America’s Cod Company,” Alaskan Leader looked to its existing portfolio to help inform its winning frozen salmon innovation, according to Keith Singleton, the president of the company’s value-added division.
“We’ve recognized Bristol Bay as one of Alaska’s great fisheries and a valued point of origin for wild-caught Alaska sockeye salmon. Having proven the value of convenience that our cod products represent, we’ve realized there is a place for conveniently portioned, easy-to-prepare frozen sockeye salmon in the marketplace as well,” Singleton said.
Seagrove Kelp Company dominated the Foodservice category with its Alaska Grown Ribbon Kelp, a nutrient-dense, versatile product with a noteworthy umami quality. Whether it becomes an integral part of soups, stews, and salads, or even powdered for use as an emulsifier, Alaska Grown Ribbon Kelp is finding tremendous appeal among chefs and restaurateurs looking to add more interesting recipe profiles to their menus – especially those with a preference for sustainable, environmentally-responsible ingredients, Seagrove said.
Kelp also features in the winning product for the Beyond the Plate category: Waterbody’s Deep Blue Sea Bath Soak, a restorative mineral soak containing Alaskan Bull Kelp.
“For our Deep Blue Sea Bath Soak, kelp is featured as a hydrating ingredient that helps soften skin. It is also a regenerative resource that can be wild harvested or cultivated without negative impact and contribute effectively to Alaska’s economic stability,” Waterbody Owner and Founder Angie Flickinger said.
Neptune Snacks, meanwhile, claimed the top spot in the Whitefish category with its Cracked Pepper Wild Alaska Pollock Jerky. Amid a glut of meat jerky brands, Neptune Snacks has emerged to cater to the growing demand for convenient and approachable seafood products. Wild Alaska pollock has a lower carbon footprint than tofu, the company said, giving its product a sustainable edge.
The winning seafood products from the Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition will appear at Seafood Expo North America, and have been entered into the Seafood Excellence Awards, set to be announced on Sunday, 13 March.
Photo courtesy of Neptune Snacks