MacKnight, Azuma take top honors at IBSS

MacKnight Smoked Foods and Azuma Foods International beat out more than 70 entries to win the International Boston Seafood Show 2009 New Products Competition Sunday.
The awards were presented at 3:30 p.m. in the Culinary Demonstration Theater on the show floor. MacKnight's Smoked Salmon Bagel Slice took home the best new retail product award, while Azuma's Shrimp Sheet won the best new foodservice award.
Stephen Nicholson, VP of Miami-based MacKnight, said the company was "delighted" to win the award.
"We're excited. This is the pinnacle for us. There's a lot of hard work that had gone into this product," said Nicholson.
The company conducted a survey of 500 housewives to find out what deters them from buying smoked salmon, and they responded that they did not like the brown meat and also the small pieces that can't be used.
The result was MacKnight's bagel slices, which make it possible to produce a portion-controlled, cost-effective, labor-saving product without taking away from the traditional aroma and flavor of conventional smoked salmon, said Nicholson.
"The response has been tremendous. From a user-friendly point of view, it's an easy product, straight on the bagel in the morning," he said.
Nicholson added that after the awards ceremony, about 30 interested companies approached MacKnight.
Azuma knows the benefits of winning the competition. This is the second time the East Rutherford, N.J., company has won the award. Azuma's Hijiki Renkon Salad was recognized as the best new product at the West Coast Seafood Show in San Francisco in 1998, and sales of the product increased after winning the prize.
The company's Shrimp Sheet is a thin, individually packaged, defrost-and-use product available for many applications. It can be rolled into sushi, wrapped around other foods, grilled, baked, deep-fried, thin-cut for salads or served as is.
"I think it's a great honor," said Daniel Mazzei, the company's export sales manager. "Especially in this type of market, new products and new customers are the only way to go."
Mazzei adds that response to the Shrimp Sheet has been tremendous.
"People really like the fact that it's fully cooked and easy to use, just open it and serve it," he said.
The competition judges were Wade Wiestling of the Oceanaire Seafood Room, Aiden Coburn of The Fish Market Restaurants and Jim Wallace of C&S Wholesale Grocers.
Finalists were rated on overall eating experience, packaging, convenience, marketability, nutrition and originality.


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