Winning the 2019 Seafood Excellence Global grand prize for Best Retail Product and Best HORECA (hotel/restaurant/catering) was not the first step towards success for Vicuinai Grouop or Kingfish Zeeland, and it’s not the last, according to company representatives.
But it does market an important milestone.
“We set up on a simple mission: trying to make the perfect fish. We’ve taken a lot of hard decisions through that process, in every turn,” Kingfish Zeeland CEO Ohad Maiman told SeafoodSource. “Running on 100 percent renewable energy is more expensive than running on regular energy. Using no antibiotics [and] high-grade feed, these were not easy choices to make, but we’re very happy to see that they’re appreciated.”
Bestowed at the 2019 Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium on 7 May, the Seafood Excellence Global awards are among the top honors a seafood product can receive.
Selected from a field of 37 finalists, Vicuinai Group was awarded the Best Retail Product title for its Surimi Noodles Wok Style, while Kingfish Zeeland BV won the grand prize in the Best HORECA Product category for its Dutch Yellowtail, raised in a recirculating aquculture system in The Netherlands.
“It was very surprising, and frankly, it was not expected,” Maiman said. “To manage expectations, I don’t spend time thinking how nice it would be to win but it really is.”
Maiman said his company – which will soon be expanding into the United States through the opening of a new recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Maine – has been rewarded after making difficult but “correct” decisions.
“Quite simply, we’ve taken the opportunities that RAS enables you to make the right choices,” he said. “You could set up the same system and gear it up toward maximum output, or you can try to do things [more sustainably]. We did that path because we think it’s right, but also because we think that the market appreciates it. Winning here is a very strong reaffirmation that maybe the market does see it that way.”
Vilma Stankevičienė, a product development manager for Vicuinai, said her company’s winning product represented a “big step in innovation.”
“It’s spaghetti, but made from surimi. It’s gluten-free, high in protein, and no fish taste. Its texture and tasteaare just like real spaghetti,” she said.
Vicuinai had also made decisions to create a higher-quality, more sustainable product – specifically, but choosing to use Marine Stewardship Council-certified Alaska pollock for its surimi.
“We’re very happy and proud of our team for this accomplishment,” she said. “It will, of course, help business. We hope to expand our markets and find new customers for this product around the world.”
Stankevičienė said the company “got the idea from the market” – the product is similar to Trident Seafoods’ Protein Noodles, which have also been feted with awards since they were introduced last year – and that Vicuinai had jumped on it because it recognized “People are searching for such products – healthy products that are low in calories and high in protein.”
Vicuinai’s version is “wok-style,” meaning it is served with Chinese vegetables and soy sauce, and its retail version is sold in one-person servings. The product has a 60-day shelf-life, which Stankevičienė said was “very important for the consumer.”
The wok-style product is not yet being sold, as the company needs more sealing machines to increase its production capacity, but the plain surimi noodles are being sold in both retail and HORECA outlets, Stankevičienė said.