The Seafood Excellence Global Awards winners’ circle expanded on 25 April to include Unima Distribution and Vičiūnai Group.
Spain’s Vičiūnai Group claimed the Best Retail Product prize for its Black Sepia Dumplings with Shrimp and Thai Broth Filling, while Best Hotel/Restaurant/Catering (HORECA) Product went to France’s Unima Distribution for its Organic Body-Peeled Madagascar Shrimp. Both companies accepted their prizes at the 2023 Seafood Excellence Global Awards reception, held at Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain on 25 April.
A panel of judges reviewed a field of 39 finalists representing 16 countries in choosing the winners. This year’s judges included Ahold Delhaize Retail Business Partner for Seafood and Frozen Food Debby Verheyen, La Sirena Seafood Purchasing Manager Daniel Diaz, Supermarché Match Seafood Director Nicholas Baroux, HelloFresh International Senior Director of Procurement Brian Legg, and Snowfox Group Head of Purchasing Paula Merrigan.
Vičiūnai Group’s product is comprised of shrimp, spinach, and a spiced coconut broth enveloped in a black dumpling wrapper that has been colored and flavored with squid ink. The dumplings give retailers a way to attract consumers on the lookout for novel seafood experiences. The judges noted the product’s high-quality shrimp content and brothy flavor, its uniqueness, and the attractiveness of its packaging.
The Organic Body-Peeled Madagascar Shrimp from Unima Distribution, which has earned a Label Rouge designation, consists of carefully-selected shrimp grown and raised in a low-density eco-concious farming model, which ensures animal well-being, environmental protection, and community development in northwest Madagascar’s Mahajama Bay. Presented head- and tail-on with the body peeled, the judges praised the product's quality, its excellent texture, and complex, intense, and delicately-iodized flavor.
In addition to the two grand prizes, the judges also gave five special awards for Health and Nutrition, Convenience, Retail Packaging, Innovation, and Seafood Product Line.
The Health and Nutrition award went to Clearwater Seafoods and Macduff Shellfish of the United Kingdom for their Wild-Caught Whole Hebridean Langoustines, which are caught in one- to two-day trips in the waters of the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. Geared toward top chefs globally, the langoustines are a vibrant orange hue with a firm texture and “a sweet, delicate flavor,” according to the judges. The product also packs a nutrious punch, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and several vitamins and minerals such as iodine, phosphorus, copper, and vitamin B12.
Unima Distribution also took home the special distinction for Convenience at the Seafood Excellence Global Awards for its Organic Body-Peeled Madagascar Shrimp. The judges said Unima has made chefs’ lives easier peeling the shell off each shrimp but leaving the head and tail intact.
Denmark’s Vega Salmon A/S nabbed the Seafood Excellence Global special award for Retail Packaging for its Cold-Smoked Salmon in Sustainable Packaging. Made with 50 percent less plastic, the product’s packaging offers a clear and concise waste separation guide that helps ensure proper recycling. The premium, cold-smoked salmon “can help retailers and consumers meet their goals to reduce waste and recycle,” the judges said.
Vičiūnai Group's Hot-Smoked Salmon with Cheese and Pine Nuts “Kinziukas” scored the Innovation prize, with the judges highlighting the item’s versatility and inventiveness.
“Based on one of Lithuania’s best-known traditional smoked foods, this winning product substitutes salmon for meat and combines it with hard cheese and pine nuts before shaping and smoking it. The product is wrapped with twine and packaged in an attractive retail box. It can be enjoyed as a snack and also used as an ingredient in other dishes,” the judges said.
Vilsund Blue of Denmark won the The Seafood Product Line special award for its line of mussel soups, which boasts three flavors: Thai Green Curry, Spicy Paprika, and Moule Frites. Aimed at increasing the consumption of mussels among Danish consumers, the line was recognized by the judges for its overall quality, the consumer appeal of the flavors, and the recyclable, shelf-stable packaging.
All the competition’s winners and finalists are on display in the Galleria, stand GA201-GB201, at Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global, running from 25 to 27 April, 2023.
Verheyen, the head judge from Ahold Delhaize, said the competition has gotten more fierce through her time as a judge.
“I have been judging this contest for more than 10 years now, and the last few years, the quality of the products is really going up,” Verheyen said.
This year, there were more breaded products and more salmon products in the contest, but she said she wasn’t surprised two creative shrimp products won the top prizes.
“Shrimp is having a moment,” she said. “Right now in the marketplace, shrimp is considered a better value. It's been less impacted by inflation and has been more stable in pricing. That has allowed companies to be more adventurous in their value-added development. And another great thing about shrimp is it is perfect for any season.”
“We love innovation and these products were very innovative, but taste is obviously number one of the assets that a product needs to have to win," she said.
Photos courtesy of Diversified Communications