Seafood Excellence winners explain secrets of their success

The winners of the 2017 Seafood Excellence Awards for the best new seafood retail and foodservice products said their products’ versatility and creativity for allowing them to stand out from the crowd.

At the 2017 Seafood Expo North / Seafood Processing North America event in Boston, Massachusetts on 19 March, Portland, Oregon-based Fishpeople Seafood won the “Best New Retail” award for its Seafood Meyer Lemon & Herb Panko Wild Alaska Salmon Kit, and Panama-based Open Blue won the “Best New Foodservice” award for its Frozen Open Blue Cobia Fillet.

Brian O’Hanlon, founder of Open Blue Cobia, believes the company’s frozen cobia won the foodservice category because “We demonstrated multiple types of uses. It is one of the most versatile products [for foodservice operators].”

Open Blue’s sashimi-grade frozen cobia fillets can be used in raw preparations, as well as grilled and other cooked formats. The fillets are typically 2-3 pounds or 3-4 pounds.

Open Blue CEO David Plumer said the company’s high standards for the quality of its fish, as well as the environment it’s raised in, have helped the company gain an edge. The company recently received BRC certification, and received Global G.A.P. and Friend of the Sea certification in 2014 and 2015, respectively. It is on track for completion of ISO 9001 and Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices audits by the end of the 2017, and will be pursing Aquaculture Stewardship Certification, with the expectation it will complete its full compliance with ASC standards by fall 2017.

“This reflects the ongoing commitment of our team to feed the current and future generations in harmony with the ocean,” Plumer said. “Our customers trust Open Blue Cobia as a reliable, sustainable source of heart-healthy, delicious white fish, responsibly raised in the pristine, deep waters of the open ocean.”

For Fishpeople, the creation of the salmon kit that won the Seafood Excellence Award was “a labor of love for well over a year,” CEO Ken Plasse said.

“Fishpeople started because we want to change consumers’ relationship with the sea, and I think we fundamentally believe that the only way to do that is if the consumer really appreciates the story behind the fish, where it comes from, how it was caught, how it was handled,” Plasse said. “And in fact, paying attention to those details translates to an incredible quality difference.”

Jen Paragallo, Fishpeople’s director of brand strategy and innovation, said the company’s salmon kit was a way to solve consumers’ “pain-points” that were preventing them from eating seafood.

“One was, it’s really hard to make delicious seafood at home. It’s very messy, and they said they didn’t know anything about where the seafood is coming from. So with our kit, we thought we were solving those problems,” she said. “If you pop open the box, you get a tray, a foil top – everything is designed to help you cook it easily and get delicious results every single time,” she said. “It also helps connect you with the seafood, learn the story behind the fish. There’s a code on each box, so the consumer can go online to our website, learn about the fish and the handling methods. One thing we always say is that where the fish is from, how it’s caught and how it’s handled matters and you can taste the difference.”

Paragallo credited Fishpeople’s fishermen and employees for creating a product that took home top honors in the prestigious competition.

“We’re excited that our partners are getting celebrated,” she said. “You can meet these people on every box. So we’re so excited that we can tell them that the work they’re doing to bring better seafood to consumers is being recognized, and that, as a result, more people now are going to get access to this great fish.”


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