Road to Brussels: Product innovation is key

 It's been 20 years since family-owned food firm Guyader Gastronomie launched its first seafood product, and the company will celebrate the anniversary at this year's European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, Belgium. SeafoodSource recently caught up with Isabel Sechet, Guyader's product manager, to find out more about the French company's two seafood products — Mini-Casseroles and Organic Rillettes Spreads — short-listed as finalists in the retail category of the 2010 Seafood Prix d'Elite new products competition.

Partos: With an annual turnover of about EUR 40 million and more than 200 employees, Guyader produces both charcuterie and seafood products. What percentage does seafood represent?
When the grand-father of Christian Guyader set up the firm, the company produced charcuterie. Thereafter, in 1989, the company entered the seafood market with the launch of the Guyader Esprit de la Mer seafood brand. Since then the firm has continually brought new seafood-focused products to market. At this year's [European Seafood Exposition] we will celebrate 20 years of Esprit de la Mer. And today, seafood represents about 60 percent of sales. Our seafood products are mostly fresh, with only a tiny percentage frozen.

How innovative is Guyader with seafood?
Innovation is very important to us. Each year, notably for the Christmas period, we launch several new products onto the market. We have a small R&D team, but for each project we reach out to third parties who will participate and contribute to the mission. For example, we work with different chefs, getting their opinion on a recipe or the marriage of different ingredients, new trends or new formulations.

We will often launch a product into foodservice channels before it hits the store shelf, which allows us to work on the product before launching into retail channels. Our aim is that our seafood innovations reflect current food trends, and we work with chefs who have their finger on the pulse.

In 2005, for example, we launched Cake de Poisson, and, in 2006, Verrines [small transparent cups with neatly-filled layers]. Last year we launched our organic range, with three products: salmon and trout rillettes, a quiche and a goat's cheese cake.

What were the key challenges in developing Mini-Casseroles and Organic Rillettes?
The key constraint for the Organic Rillettes was the supply of raw materials. Increasing numbers of manufacturers are turning to organic seafood, and supplies do not necessarily match demand. There are only a few aquatic organic products on the market because, clearly, all organic seafood is supplied from farms. And, for the moment, these farmed supplies are largely limited to salmon and trout. The possibility exists to look into organic bass, but this is expensive.

We designed a new recipe for the Organic Rillettes, which are rich in salmon (75 percent) and trout (70 percent). We wanted to formulate a rillettes that emphasized "natural and balance." While we try whenever possible to use French organic ingredients, some are also sourced from abroad. Organic certification for the rillettes was relatively quick and only took about six months.

For the Mini-Casseroles, packaging was our biggest challenge. We created the plastic mini-cocotte with an iron look with our supplier, and worked together on the design. The packaging is small, and light, but it needs to be microwave and pasteurization resistant.

Where do you sell the two products, and at what price?
Available year-round, the rillettes are sold in stores; a 100-gram pot costs EUR 2.95. We recently launched this product into foodservice in 500-gram packages. The mini-casseroles served with aperitifs or an amuse geules are sold in two varieties, a scallop stew or a crayfish and langoustine stew, and are just for the Christmas market. They are priced at EUR 3.90 for two 50-gram pots.

Editor's note: The winners of the 2010 Seafood Prix d'Elite will be announced at an awards ceremony in Auditorium 2000 of the Brussels Exhibition Grounds on 27 April, the first day of the three-day European Seafood Exposition. Click here for an invitation to the reception.


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