Retail prepared seafood: Seafood gets "made"
On MTV’s hit reality TV show “Made,” coaches and mentors help teenagers set lofty personal goals and attain them through hard work, training and dedication.Here, a skateboarding tomboy might become a beauty queen or a calculator-wielding math student might become a guitar-playing rocker.
Similarly, this year found frozen prepared seafood processors transforming their offerings from ho-hum fish sticks into value-added, restaurant-quality entrees.
“It’s gone well beyond the old days of fish sticks and frozen seafood cuts to an exciting shelf scape with more variety,” said Jaap Langenberg, COO of Blue Horizon Organic Seafood Co. in Aptos, Calif., to Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Retailer (RFFR) earlier this year. Langenberg added that consumers have high expectations for prepared seafood offerings. Today’s consumers look for everything from healthy ingredients, ethnic flavors, easy preparation and even sustainable packaging and farming methods from their prepared seafood, he noted.
This year, processors met this list of consumer demands with several new value-added products. Data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI) in Chicago show frozen fish and seafood dollar sales were up 7.5 percent during the 52-week period ending Jan. 27, 2008 (excluding Wal-Mart).
From its offices in St. Simons Island, Ga., Rich Products’ Consumer Brands Division launched SeaPak All-Natural Fish Fillets, hand-cut fillets containing no preservatives or additives, in Herb Butter Salmon and Artichoke Pesto Tilapia varieties. “We cut our fish fillets by hand from whole fish and prepare them with all-natural ingredients, just the way they are served in fine restaurants,” said Bryan Jaynes, director of marketing for the SeaPak brand.
Products made with all-natural ingredients are increasingly in demand.
“We have seen an increased interest in untreated, all natural seafood products in all categories,” says Donna Baraya, Aqua Star director of value-added business development. This year the Seattle-based company launched Aqua Star Top Crusted Fish - hand-cut, all-natural tilapia and salmon fillets with a crunchy seasoned top crust.
Also boasting all-natural ingredients are Ocean Beauty Seafoods’ Sea Choice Palate Perfect Entrees launched at the International Boston Seafood Show in February. The Seattle-based company’s entrée line includes salmon, rockfish and tilapia varieties each topped with premium sauces and vegetables. All five varieties are high in protein and low in fat.
Category leader (trailing only private label) Gorton’s notes that tilapia is one of the hottest frozen fish offerings this year. Judson Reis, vice president of marketing for the Gloucester, Mass.-based company told RFFR in March that tilapia sales were up 154 percent versus a year before.
In January, Gorton’s took its Five Star Grilled Roasted Garlic & Butter Tilapia nationwide.
“Consumer demand for tilapia is outpacing all other species,” said Judson Reis, vice president of marketing for Gorton’s. “Because of the popularity of tilapia, we wanted to offer consumers a delicious, convenient and healthy way to enjoy tilapia at home.” Each tilapia fillet is 80 calories and 2.5 grams of fat and cooks in less than 20 minutes, the company says.
Even more traditional offerings such as Pinnacle Foods’ Van de Kamp’s Fish Shaped Nuggets, launched in February, get a new spin. These fish-shaped nuggets are aimed at kids but also offer something for parents. The box touts front of the box health benefits (high in protein) and the fact that the nuggets are trans fat free.