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Hangtown Oysters Now Available

Hangtown Oysters, grown in the tidelands of a natural glacier-carved fjord in the Kitsap Peninsula of Puget Sound, are now available exclusively through Fortune Fish & Gourmet. A member of the Crassostrea gigas species, commonly known as the Pacific Oyster, Hangtown Oysters are farmed exclusively for the seafood purveyor. Grown near the fresh water outflow from Harding Creek Estuary, Hangtown Oysters feature a well-balanced combination of sweetness at the start, with a buttery soft brine finish. The flavor profile is a unique taste of fresh rain and low salinity.

“We had the idea to create Hangtown Oyster a couple of years ago,” explains Sean J. O’Scannlain, President and CEO, Fortune Fish & Gourmet. “Our team really enjoys bringing a little history into our brands, similar to our East Coast offering, the Old 1871 Oysters. We’re thrilled with how fantastic they taste. The farm we work with is producing an incredible oyster, and we are excited for people to try them.”

Hangtown Oysters are named after a unique folktale, dating back to California’s Gold Rush. During this boom time, Hangtown was one of the first towns settlers encountered while in search of the area’s riches. The town earned its name due to the vigilante justice dished out to those who ran afoul of local law enforcement. One particularly crafty swindler had a special request for his last meal: an oyster omelet. Knowing that the oysters would have to be brought from waters over a hundred miles away by steamship and then from port over rough roads, the swindler was able to delay his hanging at least two weeks. Locally, the oyster omelet was renamed the “Hangtown Fry,” known for “extending” one’s life by two weeks.

Italian Delicacies from Cibo California

by Lorrie Baumann

Start-up company Cibo California, founded last year, has reached exclusive distribution agreements for artisanal products previously unknown in the United States and is ready to launch them into the American market. Cibo California CEO Massimo Cannas says he spent months and even years persuading families that make artisanal Italian food products in traditional ways to share these products with the American market and to trust his company with that mission.

One of those product lines is Campofilone egg pasta from the Pastificio Decarlonis Srl, a family company run by brothers Paolo, Pietro and their father Enzo Decarlonis, who agreed to hold a “serious family meeting” after a long conversation with Cannas that ended with the decision that they were ready to enter the American market. “I spent several years convincing this family to start selling their products to the United States,” Cannas says. “We are the only company that is able to import their products to the U.S.”

The company is located in the Marche region on the eastern coast of Italy, directly across the Adriatic Sea from Croatia and separated from Florence by the Appenine Mountains. It’s a beautiful part of the country with an uncontaminated environment, and the pasta made in the tiny village of Campofilone is protected by the Italian government with an IGP designation, “Maccheroncini di Campofilone I.G.P.,” which means that the pasta can be traced back to this geographic area. “It’s only there that they can use this name, the Campofilone pasta,” Cannas says. “Only there, by the law, are people authorized to produce this kind of pasta and authorized to call it Campofilone pasta.”

Made with just egg and flour, with no added water, the Campofilone pastas cook in just two minutes. “They make this pasta using just flour and hand-cracked local, fresh eggs. This is what makes the difference,” Cannas says. “One by one, the eggs are cracked by a team of ladies. They must be quick.” Federico Pavoncelli, Vice President of Cibo California, says that one of his favorite recipes for the Decarlonis Maccheroncini di Campofilone IGP is Maccheroncini with lobster. “Very simple, quick to cook and delicious,” he says. He makes it with some chopped onion, chili pepper, a whole lobster and some white wine. He cooks the Maccheroncini separately for just one minute and then tosses it with the lobster sauce. “All this in no more than a minute. Serve it and enjoy!” he says.

Americans are familiar with the name Giuseppe Verdi as the composer of “La Traviata” and “Aida,” among other operas, but today’s Giuseppe Verdi is making vinegars at the Acefificio Aretino in Tuscany in the beautiful medieval city of Arezzo. Cibo California is offering the Verdi brand vinegars in a wide range of products for which it is the exclusive importer into the U.S. These include balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegars, organic red and white wine vinegar, red and white wine vinegar made with IGP Chianti wine in Tuscany, apple vinegar, and, very specially, blood orange wine vinegar made with blood oranges cultivated in Sicily. “This is something different, something unique,” Cannas says. “I tried it with a smoked salmon carpaccio and very thinly sliced sweet onions, a little radicchio, and a little lemon juice. It’s delicious.”

Cibo California is also importing a range of innovative high-quality products made with white and black truffles from Tartuflanghe, which is recognized as one of the world’s leading producers of truffles from Italy, according to Cannas. “Tartuflaghe is the master. We are talking about a very high-end product, the Louis Vuitton of the truffle industry,” he says.

The company based in Alba, Piemonte, is recognized as a leader, not just for the quality of its truffles but also for the elegance of its packaging, both for its retail and foodservice products. “This is a company that does a lot of research. They are not following the market. They are anticipating the trends in the food industry worldwide,” Cannas says. “It’s more expensive than the average imported truffle products, but in two or three bites, you see the stars, the best expression of an extensive line of truffle specialty products.” Tray the Parmiggiano Reggiano Cream with Truffle, or the Truffle Butter or the Acacia Honey with White Truffle!

Delizie di Sardegna and Sarda Affumicati are Cibo California’s source for bottarga, both from tuna and mullet. Bottarga is salted, cured fish roe, with mullet bottarga traditionally being produced in Sardinia, while tuna is used in Sicily. Most people prefer mullet bottarga for its flavor, which is less fishy than the tuna bottarga, Cannas says. “Bottarga is extracted from the fish and cleaned and covered with salt and put in a special drying cellar for a very slow drying process. In the last century, this process was done just under the sun,” he adds. “Today, bottarga is made in a drying system that produces an even better quality, flavor and consistency. Then it’s vacuum-packed and shipped all over the world.”

The bottarga is offered as the baffa, the egg sacs which have been extracted and processed whole, as well as grated or powdered in 40-gram jars. The baffa is vacuum-packed and sold at weights between 70 and 200 grams, with the best seller at around 100 grams.

“Add it to pasta to add a special flavor to any kind of meal. Over pasta, rice or soup, on top of a cioppino, drop a few drops of olive oil infused with grated bottarga,” Cannas says. “Or the bottarga is fantastic grated, a little spoon on top of grilled pork chops. This is the Sardinian way. Just use a little sprinkling of the bottarga to finish the meat after grilling.”

“With the baffa, you just slice the bottarga very thin, slice fresh artichoke heart, mix those together, add extra virgin olive oil, little bit of salt and two-three drops of lemon. This is all. You are in paradise,” he says. “That is a delicious appetizer that is offered in every restaurant in Sardinia. Instead of artichokes, you can use celery and add some cherry tomatoes.”

For dessert, Cibo California is importing biscotti and cookies from Grondona Pasticceria Genovese, a very traditional baker-biscottificio in Genoa since 1820. The pastries are made with simple ingredients of the highest quality, including, Cannas says, a lot of butter. Grondona products are made with La Madre Bianca, the company’s mother yeast, in which baker’s yeast and beneficial bacteria have been nurtured for almost two centuries. The process for feeding, tending and dividing the yeast has been kept a secret through four generations of the Grondona family – the art is rare today even in Italy, according to Cannas. “They are starting right now to enter the U.S. market, and we have been able to become exclusive importer for western U.S.,” he says.

Likewise, Grondona recipes are based on almost 200 years of tradition. Today, the company is operated by Orlando Grondona and his family. His son, Andrea Grondona, is in charge of the export division. “I took the airplane, I go to Genoa and I spent two days with Orlando and Andrea, the son. They are two wonderful human beings. Orlando is a lovely person, a genius, a master in the biscotti and cookie industry, not just in Italy but in the world. He is also a master wine expert and collector,” Cannas says. He is importing four Grondona products: the Baci di Dama in 100-gram packages, super-delicate and rich with real butter, honey, 14 percent chocolate and 17 percent hazelnuts; Canestrelli Antica Genova in 100-gram packages, in the shape of stars, 25 percent butter, lemon juice, Madagascar vanilla pods and packaged with a small packet of icing sugar intended to be sprinkled onto the cookie just before eating; Cuori Mori, heart-shaped and rich with butter, 9 percent chocolate and 3.5 percent cocoa; and Pandolcini Antica Genova, a miniature version of a cake that’s traditionally bought on the way home from church on Sunday to be served with Sunday’s lunch. It’s made from wheat flour, butter, 30 percent sultana raisins, orange peel, apples, pears, pineapples, 2.3 percent pine nuts, fresh eggs and lemon juice.

Cibo California is currently seeking account executives and distributors for southern California and other areas in the western U.S. Anyone interested in evaluating local distribution agreements for both foodservice and retail products is invited to contact Cannas at 949.230.6866 or email

A Salmon Called Frankenfish

By Micah Cheek

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the sale of genetically modified salmon in the US, sparking conflict in seafood circles and setting a new precedent for genetically modified foods in the US market. Aqua Bounty, the company producing salmon modified to grow at a faster rate, was approved to sell their product, AquAdvantage Salmon, after data from their organization was analyzed along with data from other peer reviewed sources, determining that the health and environmental risks to the fish’s production are low, and that the genetically modified salmon is not nutritionally different than its conventionally-bred alternative.

Various environmental groups and seafood organizations have spoken out against the FDA’s decision, contending that the animal has the potential to cause serious damage if it escaped into the wild. Concerns over environmental damage and risks to human health have vocalized consumers and pushed many retailers to publicly announce their refusal to sell Aqua Bounty’s salmon. Aqua Bounty has declined an interview request for this story.

Dana Perls, Food and Technology Campaigner with Friends of the Earth, an environmental reform group, says that public concern is based in a lack of consensus in the scientific community over genetically modified foods. “Consumers have strongly vocalized that they don’t want to eat GMO seafood or meat,” says Perls. “There are far too many risks for consumers to feel that this is sustainable or healthy; in fact, scientific studies point to the opposite.”

Critics of the FDA approval contend that using studies that Aqua Bounty itself conducted is unacceptable, as Aqua Bounty has a stake in the results of the findings. One document used to counter the FDA’s decision is a draft risk assessment of the environmental and human health risks of Aqua Bounty’s salmon conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Information in the assessment suggests that the genetic modification to the salmon can produce fish with inconsistent growth rates. This, groups suggest, indicates that the genetic modification process is not well-controlled or predictable. While the assessment does state that the salmon’s accelerated growth rates are highly variable based on environment, a summary of the assessment released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada goes on to indicate that AquAdvantage salmon pose a low risk to both the Canadian environment and human health.

Jacqueline Claudia, CEO of Love The Wild and formerly the Chief Strategy Officer of Kanpachi Farms, says that the risks involved in adding GMO fish to the menu have been overblown. It should be noted that Love The Wild will not be using genetically modified seafood in its products. “From a scientific perspective, a lot of issues in the media are just not true,” Claudia says. For instance, there have been concerns that escaped genetically modified fish could wreak environmental havoc if they escape. “In order to produce this gene[the genetic modification that makes the salmon grow faster], what happens is you get all females. And only 1.1 percent of those fish are capable of reproducing,” says Claudia. While the FDA’s draft risk assessment says that Aqua Bounty’s methods have been 99.8 percent effective at inducing sterility, the assessment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada says that Aqua Bounty only ensured an effectiveness of at least 95 percent. Claudia continues, “Let’s just say the stars align and it lands in the right gravel bed and finds a male salmon. The chances of them reproducing are really ridiculously small.” Claudia adds that part of the reason the genetically modified salmon grow so fast is because they have to eat all through the year, rather than hibernating as conventional salmon do. This, plus the fact that the modified fish have smaller fins than conventional varieties, suggests that any progeny of an escaped modified salmon would be unfit to live in the wild and pass along their genes.
Claudia believes that increasing yields with genetic modification has the potential to help feed the world in a less expensive and more environmentally responsible way. In addition, she believes that in the future, organisms could be modified to be disease resistant, reducing the need for antibiotics. “If people were to understand the science, we could increase the welfare of the animals.” While she believes the potential benefits of genetically modified fish are high, she believes fisheries should focus on selective breeding methods first, as the limits of that kind of growth optimization have not been fully reached.

While argument in the environmental and scientific communities continues, public opinion has already begun to turn the tide economically. In a 2013 New York Times poll, three-quarters of respondents said they would not eat genetically modified fish. A Friends of the Earth petition urging retailers to publicly refuse to sell genetically modified salmon has been signed by some heavy hitters in grocery retail. ”Customers have spoken, and we have seen companies such as Kroger and Costco stand up as leaders in seafood sustainability,” says Perl. “Fishing communities around the world are also rejecting GMO salmon because of environmental risks and the economic impacts it could have.” With such a strong public reaction, it is difficult to see where AquAdvantage salmon’s place would be in the US market. “We’ve had pretty much every grocery chain refuse to sell it; I struggle to see how anyone will sell it,” adds Claudia. “I don’t think we’ll see a lot more GMO fish if the first one in the market is just flatly rejected.”

Navigating Your Customers Through the Fish Case

By Micah Cheek
In the current seafood market, the desire for heart healthy proteins, risks of over fishing and concerns about preparation all seem at odds with one another. According to Dave Rudy, owner of Catalina Offshore Products, this complex environment presents an opportunity for retailers. “People are looking for a place where they can ask questions about their seafood and know where their seafood came from,” says Rudy. With the right information, the fishmonger can be a helpful guide to the stormy seas of an increasingly complex seafood counter.

The seafood species that represent 80 percent of seafood sales are referred to as The Big 5. Shrimp, tuna, salmon, whitefish and crab have historically been best sellers in the seafood case. According to Shawn Cronin, Business Program Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, breaking away from the Big 5 represents a valuable opportunity for retailers. “It’s a trend across all food systems, people love local. It adds an exciting element to supporting the communities you’re surrounded by.” Cronin adds that west coast retailers have seen success with local sole, flounder and rockfish. These varieties belong to the larger category of rockfish, a fishery that has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. While rockfish were greatly overfished in the 1990s, the reduction of bycatch, or unintentional catching of the wrong species, and new technology have made groundfish an ecologically responsible option.

Bycatch reduction, efforts to reduce ocean acidification, and sustainability initiatives have been increasingly successful, and a more informed customer is more aware of these issues. Tommy Gomes, expert fishmonger at Catalina Offshore Products, has witnessed the change over time. “I’m 55 years old, I’m the first generation of the TV dinner. Our food is changing. Everyone’s excited about dock to plate, and farm to market. Now it’s very critical to educate people on how to use the whole fish and how to prepare it in a healthy way.” To get a wide variety of seafood to a consumer focused on sustainable and local eating, the key is communication with a distributor. According to Seafood Watch, 90 percent of American seafood is imported, and tracking the chain of custody of any given fish can be difficult. “The only way you’ll know is diving deep into your supply chain to find out. Having a strong traceability policy in your organization is important,” says Cronin. “If you’re doing that work and you’re proud of what you’re sourcing, communicate that. Let the customers know, let them make purchasing decisions based on that information.”

The role of the fishmonger is becoming more and more involved, as customers want to know more about their seafood. “Sometimes a piece of fish gets bent or broken, it happens. I’m going to take them and grind them and show people how to make meatballs,” adds Gomes. “If you can take fish that’s broken, run it through a grinder, sell it for 5.99 and educate people on how to cook it, people will do amazing stuff.”

Aquaculture, or fish farming, presents another opportunity for discussion with customers. “A lot of the things we do are educate, promote and have fun. A lot of people have questions about farmed fish; these are the questions consumers are now asking,” Gomes says.

Aquaculture has been something of a dirty word in the seafood sector for the last 20 years, after environmental groups found overly dense and unsanitary conditions in Chilean farm fisheries. Since then, the aquaculture industry has made great strides in quality and is now considered an important part of sustainable seafood consumption. Unfortunately, the stigma has been difficult to shake. “This is one of the most frustrating things for me, because I believe that aquaculture is the future,” says Jacqueline Claudia, Co-Founder and CEO of Love The Wild. Using current advances in technology, farmed seafood has been able to encourage consistently healthy growth, eliminate antibiotic use in favor of probiotics and vaccines, and using feed that is composed of as little as one percent fish meal. “There are even some guys out in San Francisco that are basically making tofu for fish. You can replace fish meal in aquaculture feed with this alternative protein and get a farmed fish with a very similar omega-3 content as a wild fish.”

While seafood is gaining more interest with consumers, the barrier of entry remains high. The chance of making a mistake with a delicate filet is a strong concern for potential customers. “Seafood, more than any other category, has the possibility of stinking up your house for three days. It’s pretty high-risk for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing,” says Claudia. The recent increase in value-added seafood products is a response to these fears. Love The Wild offers prepackaged sets of two fillets paired with sauces. The meal for two is designed to be easily assembled, wrapped in paper, and baked. “Value-added seafood helps people get the training wheels to add seafood to their diet,” says Claudia. “They’re not looking for fish sticks anymore, they’re looking for clean-labeled fish that’s hard to screw up.”

Major Global King Crab Supplier Tackles the Issue of IUU Fishing

International Seafood Ventures, one of the largest suppliers of king crab to the U.S. retail market, has formed a strategic alliance with Frequentz Inc. to strengthen its supply chain transparency efforts. The crab industry has been under heightened scrutiny due to the increased reporting of illegally caught seafood entering the U.S. market. The presidential task force assigned to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing has also identified the king crab imports industry as a clear and present offender. While many companies are trying to distance themselves from the negative publicity, International Seafood Ventures is taking the issue on full steam ahead.

“We enlisted the help of Frequentz and their traceability solution to demonstrate without a doubt to our customers that our king crab is legitimately caught,” says Stuart Kozloff, International Seafood Ventures President. “It is important for our customers to know we take a responsible approach to our seafood sourcing, and Frequentz’s traceability solution provides that extra layer of assurance, not only for our king crab, but our whole Asian, Arctic and Aqua Chef Line of products. In today’s market we need to be responsive to our customers’ requests and by enlisting Frequentz’s assistance, we feel we can accomplish the important goal of confirming our sustainability claims to these strategic alliance customers.”

With close to 90 percent of all seafood sold in the U.S. coming from imports, supply chain transparency is the only way to assure consumers that what they are being sold isn’t a wild fish tale. Frequentz’s technology also has applications beyond seafood, as consumer demands are driving supply chains to be more forthcoming. Consumers want to have enough information to make a responsible buying decision, whether that is based on sustainability of the species or some other driving factor. Frequentz assists these industries by offering comprehensive traceability, serialization and information management technologies that promote intelligent analytics and consumer safety.

Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon Season Ends in Success

There was much anticipation going into the 2015 Bristol Bay sockeye season this year, with some 54 million sockeye salmon forecasted to return.  While the final return of sockeye may fall just short of the pre-season forecast, the 2015 sockeye season was a historic one, with a much higher than average return and a surprisingly late, long run.  As of July 26, 51 millon sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay with 35 million of those fish harvested. The peak of Bristol Bay’s run came in about 10 days later than usual this year.

“The season started slow and there was a lot of nervousness on the water, but, as always, the salmon came swimming home on their own schedule.  And when they finally did show up, they came by the tens of millions!  We had a few rough weather days, but it was an unusually sunny season with lots of rainbows and beautiful sunsets, and the best news is that we have plenty of sockeye for our customers,” said Jason McKinley, Bristol Bay Fisherman and Owner of Caught Wild Salmon.

Unusually late timing of the salmon’s return kept fishery managers, fishermen, and seafood processors on their toes as they waited to see how things would play out.   The Alaska Department of Fish and Game kept a close eye on in-season fish numbers and managed fishing efforts day-by-day to ensure that escapement targets were met in all the Bay’s major rivers.

This year’s huge return is good news for chefs and other seafood buyers who source Bristol Bay sockeye and depend on its consistently abundant runs and year-round availability.  Because the majority of Bristol Bay sockeye is flash frozen during the peak of the fishing season, late July and August signal the real start of the Bristol Bay salmon season for consumers.

“When you’re dealing with a wild food like sockeye salmon, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s part of the beauty of it and what makes it so special,” said William Dissen, Chef and Owner of The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina.  “I’ve served Bristol Bay sockeye in my restaurant for the past few years and am thrilled to once again be able to provide it to our customers who’ve come to expect it on our menu.”

Others in the marketplace are also pleased with this season’s sockeye return, including the national company Plated, which features Bristol Bay sockeye salmon as part of its meal-delivery menu.  “Being able to source and provide Bristol Bay sockeye to our customers is an important part of who we are as a company, and key to our commitment to purchasing sustainable, healthy protein,” said Keith Lydon, Vice President of Operations at Plated.

Consumers around the country can now purchase Bristol Bay sockeye directly from fishermen through Community Supported Fisheries, farmers markets, and buying clubs.  A list of Bristol Bay sockeye suppliers can be found at

Salmon Brands Takes Top Honors at 2015 Seafood Prix d’Elite

Salmon Brands of Oslo, Norway was awarded the top prize in the 15th annual Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition at Seafood Expo Global. The winner was selected from a field of 37 finalists and was announced this evening at a special Seafood Prix d’Elite reception.

The top award for best new retail product was given to Salmon Brands for its entry, Salmaraw. This ready-to-eat sashimi kit provides 90 grams of fresh salmon sashimi with sachets of ponzu sauce and sesame seeds, and a specially designed eating utensil. The product is presented in a unique airtight and leak-proof pack that beautifully displays and preserves the high quality of the salmon. The judges particularly noted that this product was very well conceived and executed from start to finish.

In addition to the grand prize, the judges also gave five special awards:

Salmaraw from Salmon Brands was also presented the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Originality. The presentation of the salmon sashimi kit in a long tray is unique and elegant, yet still allows the consumer to eat the product directly from the package. This combination makes it well positioned for consumers who are looking for healthy take-away meals.

The Seafood Prix d’Elite special prize for Health & Nutrition was awarded to Marine Harvest of Brugge, Belgium for its product, Duo Norvégien au Four. The naturally healthy combination of cod wrapped in a thin slice of salmon is packed in an oven-ready aluminum tray and gives the consumer an easy way to serve an elegant seafood preparation at home.

The Big Prawn Company of Melton Constable, England in the United Kingdom was awarded the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Convenience for its product Seafood Rarebit. A seafood take on a classic Welsh dish, this frozen retail product offers two pastry cases filled with king prawns and topped with a sauce flavored with English cheddar cheese, mustard and spices. The topping melts down over the prawns and into the pastry during cooking. Perfect for a light lunch or part of a main meal, the product offers consumers a new, easy way to enjoy seafood.

The Big Prawn Company was also presented the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Retail Packaging for its product, 2 Crayfish Thermidor Bakes. Designed for special holiday occasions, this product features twin ramekins filled with crayfish tails in a creamy thermidor sauce flavored with white wine, shallots and mustard, then topped with a ciabatta Grand Padano cheese breadcrumb. The package is elegantly designed with full-color photos of the prepared dish and a clear window to see the ramekins, which are covered with clear plastic domes. The package provides complete information for the consumer on nutrition, ingredients, product origin, preparation, and package disposal.

Rockabill Shellfish Limited of Balbriggan, Ireland was presented with the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Seafood Product Line for its “Something Fishy” line of seafood infused butters. Offered in Sweet Onion, Dulse and Asian Infusion flavors, the products combine Irish butter with freeze-dried and milled seafood protein, dried seaweed and seasonings. The result is a culinary butter that provides the savory deliciousness of umami to both enhance and complete the flavors of prepared dishes. The products can be used to flavor sauces, finish risottos, pastas and rice dishes, or to spread over seafood before or after cooking.

At the discretion of the judges an award was not given this year for best new foodservice product. Although the judges noted some positive aspects of the products entered in the category, they felt that in many cases the information provided by entrants was incomplete, and therefore it was not possible to choose an overall winner in the category.

The winners of the 2015 Seafood Prix d’Elite were chosen from a field of 37 finalists representing 11 countries. The winners and finalists are on display at Hall 11, Stand 2501 at Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global, which runs now through April 23.

The judges for the 2015 Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition were Debby Verheyen, Seafood Product Expert for Delhaize Supermarkets in Belgium; Thibault Faucon, Supply Chain Manager for Sodexo in Luxemburg; Filip Keersmaekers, Seafood Category Manager for Makro & Metro Cash & carry in Belgium; Ian Nottage, Chef Director with Reynold’s Catering Supply in the UK; and Dominique Fenech, National Director of Seafood Purchasing for Monoprix in France. Ms. Verheyen served as chairperson of the jury.

The Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists were judged on taste and overall eating experience, packaging, marketability, convenience, nutritional value and originality. The judges’ scores were verified by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young.


International Participation Grows Seafood Expo

Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America, formerly the International Boston Seafood Show/Seafood Processing America, has expanded significantly to strengthen its position as the largest seafood trade event in North America. The event is taking place March 15-17, 2015 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

For the first time in its history, the business-to-business exposition will exceed 200,000 net square feet. Diversified Communications, producer of the event, cited international exhibiting companies as a key area of growth.

“Reports state 91 percent of seafood in the United States is imported from other countries, showing promise to international companies looking to expand their foothold. Regionally, there is notable influx in new participation from Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Morocco and Spain,” said Liz Plizga, Group Vice President for Diversified Communications. “The increase in participation signifies the importance of Seafood Expo North America for companies, worldwide, looking to penetrate this market.”

More than 20,000 seafood professionals participated in the exposition in 2014. The thriving event serves as an avenue for buyers sourcing seafood products and related services. The exhibition is also complemented by an educational conference program, master classes, culinary demonstrations, an oyster shucking competition and the Seafood Excellence competition.

“While the expo is designed as a platform for buyers and suppliers to network and do business in just three days, the special onsite activities provide them with an opportunity to enhance their experience at the event,” said Wynter Courmont, Event Manager. “It is truly exciting to see this event continue to prosper.”

In 2014, 84 percent of the visitors surveyed indicated the intent to purchase as a direct result of the exposition. The visitors’ survey also revealed that the top three objectives for attending were to meet with existing suppliers, find new suppliers and compare products.

Ora King Salmon Rated Best Choice by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch

Premium New Zealand Ora King salmon has been recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable.

Following a year-long assessment process, a report released on Monday by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s globally respected consumer guide, Seafood Watch®, has rated New Zealand’s marine-farmed salmon, including Ora King salmon, as “Green,” meaning it is a “Best Choice” for consumers.Ora King Salmon - Google

Seafood Watch is produced by the independent conservation organization Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and is the authoritative consumer guide on sustainable seafood in North America.

New Zealand King Salmon is the first and only ocean-farmed salmon to have achieved the Green/Best Choice rating from Seafood Watch.

The ratings are a strong endorsement of New Zealand King Salmon’s sustainability credentials.

Ora King is raised by The New Zealand King Salmon Company in the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds in a country that is “characterized by strong (aquaculture) management systems and pristine marine and freshwater ecosystems,” the guide says.

New Zealand King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne says aquaculture makes a major contribution to relieving pressure on the world’s fisheries. “We have been highlighting for some time that our industry equals sustainable jobs and healthy, mindful eating,” he explained, “and the report supports what Kiwi salmon farmers have long maintained.”

Ora King salmon was launched in the U.S. market in 2012. Two decades in the making, Ora King is a specific breed of salmon raised especially for the premium restaurant trade.

Chef Matt Lambert of the Michelin-starred Musket Room restaurant in New York City has visited the Ora King farms on many occasions. He said, “The Seafood Watch ‘Best Choice’ rating confirms something I’ve believed since my first visit to the farm. When a product comes from such a pristine environment, and is treated with the utmost respect, the end result will always be fantastic. Ora King salmon is that kind of product. It makes my job easier and more enjoyable.”

Mr Rosewarne says Ora King represents the pinnacle of his company’s achievement. “The brand is founded on more than two decades of traditional breeding, reinforced by our world-leading expertise in growing King salmon,” he explained. “The species is itself a rare luxury. The Ora King brand builds on all the fine traits of the King salmon species – it is to salmon what Wagyu is to beef.”

Snapshots from the Seafood Watch report reveal:

  • Local environmental and stringent national and site biosecurity measures mean New Zealand marine farms score 10 out of 10 for non-use of chemicals.
  • New Zealand’s policy of releasing non-native King salmon into the wild has no impact on “wild” stocks, justifying a 10 out of 10 for no impact.
  • Because all salmon there are sourced from farm-owned hatcheries, they have no impact on wild stocks and so score 10 out of 10 on this parameter.
  • Overall the final recommendations for farmed King salmon in New Zealand is ‘Green,’ or ‘Best Choice.’

For more information, visit

Evolving U.S. Caviar Market Stocked with International and Domestic Products


By David Bernard

SONY DSCTime was, when you wanted to experience top-quality caviar, there was one game in town (or rather one sea in town): the Caspian Sea. The Soviet Union and Iran, with Caspian shoreline, had sole access to the species of sturgeon that provided the worlds most delicious caviar, which retailed for hundreds of dollars per ounce. However, today, retailers wanting to procure some of the best Russian caviar available, may take their shopping trip far and wide – to China and Uruguay, for example.

With exports of wild caviar from the Caspian Sea and other locations banned or mostly banned since 2006 due to poaching, overfishing, pollution and shrinking habitat, American caviar importers have turned to a growing global aquafarm industry. This is yielding some delicious results.

The key to sourcing the best caviar is to keep your eye not so much on the fish, but on the farm. While most aquafarms started their operations with the prized Caspian Sturgeon, Russian Osetra or Siberian Sturgeon (chosen for its rapid rate of maturation), it is the individual farms processes and practices that determine whether the fish turn out world-class Russian caviar or an also-ran product. While feed is not typically a distinguishing factor in product quality – there are only a few large-scale feed producers worldwide – aspects such as how much and what kind of vitamins are given and the strength of a countrys regulatory practices play important roles in ultimately determining caviar quality.

My job is to go to visit every single farm to see if they have close to a natural situation, said Max Moghaddam, President and owner of Bemka House of Caviar & Fine Foods, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based importer and distributor. The quality of the water is most important. If a farm is landlocked and water is a limited resource – maybe theyre using only 10 percent fresh water and recycling the rest – thats not really a farm we want to work with.

In addition to China and Uruguay, countries producing farmed caviar include Italy, the world leader in the production and export of such caviar, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Israel, Canada, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran and a number of former Soviet Republics. Russia produces a significant amount of caviar, but most is consumed by the country’s large domestic market.

Today, the main varieties of caviar imported into the United States continue to be Russian Osetra and Siberian Sturgeon. Some hybrids are sold as well, for example Bester, which is a hybrid of the Caspian native Beluga and the smaller Sterlet Sturgeon. Beluga caviar itself is banned from import or sale in this country, because the Beluga Sturgeon is an endangered species.

Markys, based in Miami, sources its top-selling Osetra from an Israeli aquafarm that uses a continuous flow of mountain stream water. The Karat Osetra caviar is sold in Black, Amber and Gold varieties. The Amber is a particular hit, juicy but with a firm grain and distinctive nutty clean taste.

While foreign aquafarms are turning out quality caviar, domestic production has grown as well, thanks to both lower pricing and increased demand. With the overall dip in world production that occurred between the banning of much wild caviar and the growth of the farmed caviar industry, domestic producers were able to fill part of the supply void.The caviar from California White Sturgeon, similar to Russian Osetra in size and taste, if a bit more fishy, now makes up more than 70 percent of authentic domestic caviar production and provides consumers with a gourmet product at a somewhat lower price.

We find that White Sturgeon is a very good middle ground, said Christopher Hlubb, President and COO of Markys. It does not usually compete with products at the top such as Russian Osetra. Like most products, it depends on grade, but it positions itself as a very good product, although the price has risen and is nearing that of Russian Osetra.

For retailers looking to offer consumers fish roe at an even lower price, there are a number of non-sturgeon American caviar products available (note: this term is also often used to refer to the authentic caviar from California White Sturgeon). Paddlefish roe, the cousin of caviar, comes from fish native to the Yellowstone River and Mississippi River system. Salmon and whitefish roe are also lower price-point options.

We talk to customers and ask them what their need is, said Dale Sherrow, Vice President of Seattle Caviar Company, which sells American caviar as well as a full range of imported caviar. If its an event, what kind of event, how many people, whats their budget. And for some customers, salmon roe is the perfect choice. You get that strong salmon flavor. It has a larger bead. Its just delicious.

While there are a number of tasty non-sturgeon roe products available, these are not necessarily a steppingstone for consumers to move into imported caviar. We find a lot of customers have their preference, their budget, and they stay with it,” said Sherrow. “They get great tasting American caviar that can be used most ways.”

This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.


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