By Lucas Witman
In the world of fresh seafood, few products are as classic as salmon. Shoppers hungry for this seafood staple know that their supermarket of choice is bound to have a selection salmon filets, sliced smoked salmon and lox. However, today’s consumers are also encountering a diverse selection of alternative salmon offerings in the seafood section.
Lovers of the fish are now topping their pizzas with salmon pepperoni, waking up to salmon breakfast sausages and celebrating summer with salmon burgers, hot off the grill. According to Leslie Harlow, co-founder of and spokesperson for Maine-based Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse, the recent resurgence in popularity of salmon is due in part to advances in the salmon fishery and processing industry. Harlow refers to a “second generation of aquaculture,” which has occurred over the past few years, resulting in a healthier, more sustainable product.
“One of the things we have been able to promote is that salmon is a healthy protein alternative to meat,” said Harlow. “Salmon is the fish with the highest level of Omega-3s and the highest level of fat, and it’s the kind of fat that you want to eat.” According to Harlow, it is because the protein is tasty, healthful and versatile, that salmon has exploded in popularity in recent years.
Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse offers a variety of salmon products as well as products made from other types of seafood. The company’s signature product is its cold-smoked sliced Atlantic salmon, but it also offers other unique items such as the Omega Burst, chunks of salmon taken from the loin of the fish, double smoked and mixed with Maine maple syrup and cracked black pepper.
Harlow argues that it is her company’s careful attention to ethically and sustainably sourcing the highest quality salmon in the North Atlantic that sets Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse apart from other seafood companies. The salmon the company uses are harvested in the Bay of Fundy off the coast of New Brunswick. Fish from this area are known to be particularly healthful. In addition, because the company processes the fish it uses just 65 nautical miles from the salmon source, the end product is fresher and more eco-friendly. “Knowing where we source our fish from makes us more marketable,” said Harlow.
The growing popularity of salmon today can not be simply attributed to growing consumer awareness surrounding the healthfulness of the product, however. According to Wayne Strudwick, Sales Manager at MacKnight Food Group, salmon products are growing in popularity on the American culinary scene, simply because there is much more that food companies can do with salmon that they can not do with other types of fish.
“We’ve experimented with other kinds of fish, tilapia, trout. Trout is pretty close to the salmon family. But it’s the consistency of the salmon that makes it better,” said Strudwick. “It’s a very oily fish. It’s not a bad oil. It’s a good oil that is high in Omega-3s, high in protein.”Few companies have approached salmon with as much creativity as has MacKnight. The company offers a diverse bounty of products made from the protein. Whereas some seafood companies focus primarily on utilizing the filets of the fish, MacKnight uses every part of the animal in crafting its offerings.
“Over the years, what we have actually done is we’ve diverted a little bit. When you filet the salmon off the whole fish, you still have a lot of protein on the frame, so we started coming up with some creative ideas,” said Strudwick. “We used that protein, and we’re making salmon burgers. We’re making salmon sausages, salmon bacon, smoked salmon party slices.”
Why are consumers turning to salmon-based products and eschewing their pork and beef-based cousins? For Strudwick, when consumers choose salmon bacon or salmon sausage instead of the more mainstream alternative, they get a lot more for their money— both in terms of flavor and nutritional value.
“Our salmon bacon is 98 percent smoked salmon. You’re getting all the benefits of the highest form of protein, the highest form of Omega-3s,” he said. “If you purchase regular pork bacon, it’s almost all fat. Ours is more of a healthy alternative to bacon.”
Consumers may not yet be stopping at their favorite diner for a salmon bacon cheeseburger, but that situation may be close at hand, Strudwick predicts. “As soon as people get it out there and people are acknowledging it, I think you are going to see it eventually,” he said “I make them and they’re great!”