Thunder’s Catch, Netuno USA win top honors at 2023 Seafood Excellence Awards
Thunder’s Catch and Netuno USA were revealed as the winners of the 2023 Seafood Excellence Awards, announced today, 12 March, at Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America.
Thunder’s Catch won the award for Best New Retail Product for its Wild Salmon Chowder, while Netuno USA scored the Best New Foodservice Product prize for its Tambaqui Ribs.
The Wild Salmon Chowder produced by Thunder’s Catch is “made with large chunks of smoked wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, potatoes, corn, celery, and carrots,” and is ready to heat-and-serve, according to the company.
“We started at farmer's markets in a little pop-up tent. Since then, over the years, we've worked on other provisions – smoked salmon, salmon spread, burgers, jerky – with our brand. We want to keep all of our ingredients clean and not use any artificial ingredients, so that's always been a challenge with our provisions that they have to be refrigerated or frozen. During the pandemic, we had time to work on a little passion project and put energy and time into making something and we could take skiing, backpacking, or hiking," Thunder’s Catch Co-owner Kara Berlin told SeafoodSource.
The offering is fresh off of a series of Alaska Symphony of Seafood wins – it took home the contest’s “Bristol Bay Choice” and the “Juneau People’s Choice” awards, and tied for third place in the “Retail” category.
Berlin said support from Alaska's seafood industry has been crucial to the business, which she runs with fellow Bristol Bay fisherman Taran White.
“We have a lot of support behind this, which is very humbling, but also so encouraging," Berlin said. "It’s just the two of us. We would not have even been able to apply; the cost to enter the competition would have otherwise written it off. But AFDF [Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation] advocated enough for us to say, ‘hey, you guys should go, by the way, have some fun. So we're gonna cover the application fee.’ We have organizations in our corner of the Alaska seafood world advocating for us. So many people are enjoying this and I'm in disbelief.”
Netuno USA’s Tambaqui Ribs can be grilled, baked, and fried. They are cut into rib-style portions that pair well with fish-fry dry rub, barbecue sauce, and more, Netuno USA said.
“This is big. It’s a new venture, and we’re really excited to be recognized. We’ve been working hard developing new items behind the scenes and it’s really cool to have people try it and see what we see,” Netuno USA Sales and Marketing Director Amanda Antonio told SeafoodSource upon winning the Best New Foodservice Product award.
Antonio said the product was born out of a collaborative process.
“Everyone from our packers and processors to our owners believe in putting out quality products and being innovative,” she said.
Inspired by popular trends in Brazil, Antonio added that the Tambaqui Ribs can serve as an alternative to meat ribs or pork ribs in fast-casual or fast-food settings.
“Our Tambaqui — closely related to the pacu fish — is farm raised in the clean waters of the Amazon, in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. Omnivorous, no fish meal or fish oil is needed for feeding. Our farm achieved the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) label in December 2022, likely making our Tambaqui the first sustainably farmed in the world. Tambaqui ribs – also referred to as pacu ribs – are ideal alternatives for non beef or chicken consumers in BBQ and fried wings restaurants,” Netuno USA said of the prized product on its website.
The winning products were selected from a pool of 11 finalists by an esteemed panel of judges live on the first morning of the expo, which runs this week from 12 to 14 March in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Produced by Diversified Communications, Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America is North America’s largest seafood trade event, drawing seafood professionals from around the world, including 1,141 exhibiting companies from 49 countries.
Finalists’ products were appraised with a mind toward several criteria, including uniqueness and appropriateness to the market, taste profile, market potential, convenience, nutritional value, and originality. This year’s judges included Performance Foodservice Business Development Manager Jeff Meagher, The Cheesecake Factory Vice President of Quality Assurance and Food Safety Al Baroudi, and Sprouts Meat and Seafood Category Manager Douglas Varanai.
Finalists for this year’s competition were selected via a prior screening of products participating in the Seafood Expo North American New Product Showcase, which features seafood products, condiments, and culinary dishes launched in the past year by exhibiting companies.
Photo courtesy of Bhavana Scalia-Bruce/SeafoodSource