Oysters, catfish and more: Seafood innovation abounds at FOODEX Japan 2015

Published on
March 10, 2015

Seafood innovation was evident at Asia’s largest food and beverage show, FOODEX Japan 2015, held 3 to 6 March. The show, which featured 2,977 exhibitors from 79 countries, was divided into a Japanese section, which included a Marine Product Corner, and country pavilions grouped roughly into Europe, Asia and everything else.

In the Japanese section, Kunihiro Inc., a Hiroshima-based oyster farming and processing company, has introduced a high-pressure processing (HPP) system for shucking. They toured processors in U.S. Gulf of Mexico region, where HPP is used as an alternative to cooking to destroy the Vibrio bacteria. In Japan, the main advantage is the reduction in labor cost, both in man-hours and reduction of necessary skill. The shucked oyster meats, frozen raw and bagged, have found a good market in supermarkets like Coop.

Farm Suzuki, also of Hiroshima, displayed Farm Suzuki. The color is caused by certain algae growing in the brackish “claire” pond (a former salt evaporation pond) where the oysters are finished. The farming method imitates techniques used for centuries in the Marennes-Oléron region of France.

A third producer, the Nakatsu branch of the Oita Prefecture Fisheries Cooperative Association, has adopted the Australian suspended cage system, which is new to Japan, as well as a floating upwelling system (FLUPSY) to increase nutrient flow. This method greatly increases the growth rate, though it also increases equipment and pumping costs. The usual method in Japan is to suspend oysters on vertical lines attached to floats or rafts.

In the Asian section, canned abalone with various sauces was displayed by a Taiwanese company, Lianyi Gourmet Ltd., based in Taipei. The company exports to Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, and to Canada for its Asian market. Abalone is a popular luxury food among Asian consumers. Plans to enter the United States await U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. The abalone are sourced both locally and from China, North Africa and, for large abalone, from Chile. The company’s wide variety of special sauces is its sales point. A Korean company, Chungsanbada Co., Ltd. of Jeollanamdo, which also exhibited, exports live and frozen-in-shell abalone to Japan. South Korea’s Wando Bay is a major production area and convenient for shipping to Japan.

A Tokyo-based distributor of Vietnamese products, Maple Foods Ltd., introduced catfish fillets in miso sauce. Miso is most commonly used in Japan for Spanish mackerel (sawara), so many visitors were surprised to see it applied to catfish, but applying some flavor may be needed. As Sales Manager Katsunori Takizawa said, “Japanese generally have a bad image of catfish. They think it doesn’t have a good taste.” Trinh Ba Hoang, general director of Incomfish of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, said that though his company introduced various breaded catfish fillets last year, only plain fillets and miso had been successful.

Brussels, Belgium-based Viciunai, a leading surimi product supplier in the EU with most of its production in Lithuania, introduced a salmon scrapings block, for processing use, such as for fish fingers. Such items are used in Japan more for children’s “bento” lunchboxes than for dinners. Smoked mackerel was a surprise hit for the company at the show.

A Dakhla, Morocco-headquartered company, King Pelagique Group, is further processing sardines into fish fingers and other breaded products that have traditionally been made of whitefish, after spending much time in development of washing techniques to remove oil and smells. The company is wholly Moroccan owned and is the largest fish processor in the country. Morocco has been cutting its licensing of EU vessels, with a policy of encouraging more domestic processing and the company is expecting to be a beneficiary of this push.

Contributing Editor reporting from Osaka, Japan

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