For many retailers, Lent, (the six-week period between Ash Wednesday and Easter) provides the seafood industry with a much-needed sales boost. In fact, U.S. retailers generated $1 billion in seafood sales during Lent last year. However outside of this brief period, seafood sales lag well behind those other fresh categories, and well behind other protein categories. Although it is still not nearly as popular as meat, seafood still accounts for $870 billion in the worldwide economy and $217.5 billion worth is seafood is produced worldwide each year. Furthermore, according to Nielsen research, nearly 20% of U.S. consumers say they want to add more fish to their diets, so although it does lag, the seafood industry is growing.
For those of you who aren’t in the seafood industry (or aren’t very familiar with it), the Seafood Expo North America is the largest seafood trade show in North America. People come from all over the world to showcase their products. This year the expo saw 1,329 exhibitors from 49 countries. Everything from caviar to smoked salmon, to oysters, to lobster, and fresh fish from all over the world, who knew there were so many sea baring options! Upon walking the Boston Seafood show, it was apparent there are a lot of interesting trends going on the age-old seafood industry. Everything from salmon bacon and salmon jerky to vegan sushi to oysters being Fed Ex’d to your doorstep to many unique seafood based ready made meals, it’s quite an exciting time to be in the seafood space. (For those of you who have never been…seafood people have the BEST parties, unlimited sushi, king crab legs, caviar, lobster, oh it’s delightful!)
Before expanding to some interesting trends in seafood, most notably seen at the show, did you know shrimp, salmon and tuna account for 60% of total seafood revenue? Consumers interact very differently with each of the three top players in seafood. Shrimp is mostly bought frozen, but salmon is mostly bought fresh, and more than 90% of tuna is in store purchased, such as precooked canned tuna. Moving on, here are some interesting trends in seafood…
Salmon bacon: the Boston Smoked Fish company debuted their ‘smoked salmon bacon’ at the Boston show and we were told this item is selling like wild fire. Apparently, it was featured in Coastal Living Magazine as a 2017 Food Awards recipient. (It does sound delicious). This salmon bacon is made from salmon belly, which many consider to the be the tastiest cut of the salmon. It is then dried, cured in natural spices, then hot smoked over North American pecan wood to give it a nice, smoky flavor.
Salmon jerky: has anyone ever tried this one? I’m intrigued. The Wild Alaskan company debuted their Salmon jerky line including flavors such as rainbow peppercorn, lemon zest – herb, and sweet, smoky original at the show. Must give this one a try. More info here.
Canned seafood is all the rage now, at least according to Eater.com article. According to the Bloomberg, the market for tinned fish is expected to reach $36.7 billion by 2021. Although this type of seafood is more popular in Europe and Asia, the US is slowly catching on to this trend. Here are some restaurants where you can find some delicious, high end, canned seafood (not the cheap Chicken of the Seas stuff). However, if you’re looking to buy some at the supermarket, check out Ortiz (for tuna and anchovies).
Maiden Lane (Alphabet City): this adorable wine bar in Alphabet City offers a variety of cured and smoked fish, canned seafood, charcuterie and cheeses among other things (anything to accompany their large selection of wines). Since its opening in 2013, Maiden Lane has brought the European tinned seafood scene to NYC. Some people rave that Maiden Lane is just as good if not better than many places in Spain and Portugal. In fact, the European bar has been featured in many publications such as the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, New York Magazine, Bon Appetit and more.
Lamano (Chelsea & West Village): from the team that brought us the sexy Mexican restaurants, Ofrenda, Temerario, and Black Ant, this small (NYC apt small), yet adorably charming spot focuses on a variety of well-presented Spanish tapas. Lamano also offers a variety of tinned seafood choices including fish from Ramón Peña, from octopus and mussels to sardines.
Saltie Girl: this tiny, apartment size restaurant seats 16 people in the main dining area and 12 at the bar, which features views of the raw bar and shucking station. The owners boast that they have the largest tinned seafood collection in New England. The menu is Spain-inspired, and you may feel like you need to immediately book a trip to San Sebastian after you leave. Another thing to note, be sure to come with people you like as you’ll be squished in here. Also, make sure your dining companions like fish and the smell of it (pun intended), as the place it so small, you may leave reeking like an Alaskan fisherman.
Haley Henry: as you may (or may not) know, Boston loves its seafood and they’re quite proud of it. This small eatery located in the heart of Downtown Crossing showcases an excellent wine menu along with an excellent happy hour menu and some spectacular canned fish options.
Vegan seafood: Ocean Hugger Foods has made a huge splash on the food scene with its vegan ‘tuna’ Ahimi, which the sea says is the world’s first plant-based alternative to raw tuna (it’s made of tomato). Currently this product is sold in over 50 Whole Foods stores across the USA, as well as independent restaurants in the USA and Canada. (It’s worth paying sushi prices for ‘tomatoes’, trust me).
Also check out Sophie’s Kitchen. Vegan seafood options of theirs includes crab cake, fish fillet, coconut shrimp, shrimp, scallops, smoked salmon, glazed salmon bacon, and pastrami jerky. Products are available in more than 1,000 retail stores nationwide including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Safeway, Albertsons, and more. The company also recently launched two new heat and serve vegan seafood meals.
Another pseudo seafood company that recently made its way into the market is Good Catch Foods, which has launched a range of vegan tuna, crab cakes, fish sliders, and fish burgers. The company says they start with six-legume blend of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans, and navy beans and add in sea algae oil. It’s rich in DHA which leads to a complex umami rich flavor. Their vegan tuna is now available in Whole Foods market.
What have you seen recently in the seafood space? I would love to hear all about it!