Something to sea

The 2010 International Boston Seafood Show was awash in new merchandising ideas and value-added products.

By Richard Turcsik

At this year’s International Boston Seafood Show executive chef Justin Patrick Timineri was sautéing up a dish with a lot of bite—literally! At his “Fresh from Florida” booth, run by State of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services out of Tallahassee, Chef Timineri was cooking up several dishes made with Florida alligator, including alligator sautéed in a wok and gator chili.

“We find alligator has really been catching on,” Timineri told Grocery Headquarters. “It’s tasty, high in protein with almost no fat. A lot of people say it is like chicken, but I think the alligator was around a couple of thousand years before the chicken. I like to say that chicken tastes like alligator.”

Timineri’s alligator would have paired perfectly with O’Dell’s Chef’s Butter Seafood Butter, which was being sampled over on Aisle 1600.

“Our clarified butter is solid at room temperature,” said Michael Adams, vice president of sales and marketing, at Reno, Nev.-based O’Dell’s. “Clarified butter has been around in foodservice for years, but introducing it on the retail side has been challenging.” Adams says O’Dell’s clarifies its butter using a centrifuge. He suggests O’Dell’s  be merchandised adjacent to the seafood case, or in other areas of the store, such as next to the popcorn.

Crab cake sliders

Over at the Phillips Foods booth, the lines were forming deep to sample the Baltimore company’s new crab sliders. “Big for us this year are our four flavors of Seafood Sliders,” said Honey Konicoff, vice president of marketing. “They are a 1.5-ounce cake and are smaller versions of cakes that we’ve had for a while in Lobster, Crab & Shrimp, Salmon and Crab Cake. They can be sold prepared on the bun in the restaurant department, pre-cooked in the deli or merchandise them in the seafood case as a thawed, take-home-and-cook. A focus of ours has been looking for foodservice-type products that are applicable in retail.”

Konicoff said Phillips’ goal is to sell more crabmeat. “Where we see a big opportunity is that deli-prepared and seafood cases are underserved with crab. Crabmeat is our mainstay, although we are coming out with some Claw Fingers this spring,” she added. Also new for this spring is Phillips brand crab seasoning for steaming live crabs at home.

The promise of free Crab Cake Sliders was causing a bit of a backup at the Phillips booth. One of those caught up in the traffic was Sean Harmon, director of marketing and sales at Houston Central Industries. He was trawling the show floor looking for new business for his Houston-based cold storage and warehouse facility, which has been serving the Gulf Coast Region since 1921. “I’m seeing a pattern where traders are shipping direct to their customers, leaving out the third party warehouse,” he said.

Over at the booth of Miami-based Blue Star, passersby were being encouraged to do the crabmeat taste challenge—to see if Blue Star crabmeat packaged in patented Eco-Fresh pouches tastes fresher and juicier than crabmeat packed in traditional tin cans. The company claims its Eco-Fresh pouches take 45% less energy to produce than cans and their lighter weight saves on transport costs.

“We have been selling pouches since 2003, however now the initiatives about sustainable and eco-friendly packaging and the lifecycle analysis that examines the lifecycle of a product from the development of the raw material for the packaging all the way down to the disposal from recycling to landfill shows that pouches are by far the very best,” said John R. Keeler, CEO and CSO.

Lobster academy

While crab is big for Phillips and Blue Star, lobster was the catch of the day over at East Coast Seafood. “Our new products this year are stuffed lobster tail and lobster cakes,” said Christina Ferranti, vice president, marketing, at the Lynn, Mass.-based firm. “This year we have a new partnership with Tryst Gourmet, and they are going to be our retail arm now. They are in supermarkets with their dips and now they are coming out with lobster entrées.”

This September, East Coast will be sponsoring its Lobster Academy at its plant in Canada. “This is an educational program centering around lobster,” Ferranti said. “It is ideal for retailers to attend.”

Over at the Trans-Ocean Products booth, Mark Aaron Ross, executive chef and Southeast & Gulf Coast regional business development manager, was talking about the Bellingham, Wash.-based company’s line of frozen scallops and all-natural shrimp that is launching in June.

“We will have two SKUs of raw and two SKUs of cooked shrimp packaged in gusseted bags that stand up nice in the freezer case,” Ross said. Trans-Ocean was also touting its line of seafood salads made with Hellmann’s mayonnaise. “Each case is shipped with these ‘made with Hellmann’s’ packaging labels.”

Will Pearce, an Alabama catfish farmer, was stationed at the U.S. Catfish Institute booth promoting U.S.-grown catfish. “A lot of imports are starting to come in now, so we’re pointing out all of the food safety aspects we have with our U.S. product, the sustainability of it and that it is raised in fresh waters and grain fed.”

Ewell Smith, executive director of the New Orleans-based Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board, said the amount of heavy traffic at his booth was causing him to rethink about how to do the show next year. “We’re going to try and develop a national marketing and advertising campaign,” Smith said.

To help consumers learn about the sustainability of Alaska seafood, the Seattle-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute was showing consumer-oriented brochures. “Sustainability is misunderstood,” said Larry Andrews, retail marketing director. “We’re not being asked a lot of questions about it at consumer shows. The No. 1 issue with consumers is the misinformation on mercury. The next question below that is how do I prepare it.”

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