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Creative seafood packaging designs introduce old products to new markets.

Signs of the economic recession's negative impact on new product introductions evident at recent trade shows. But what was lacking in quantity is made up in quality.

While there is surely no shortage of new seafood trade shows these days, it's getting harder to spot genuinely new products at the numerous exhibitions. Nonetheless, anybody walking the floors of the recently held International Boston Seafood Show and Sea Fare '93 in Long Beach, Calif., had to be impressed with the innovative packaging formats that are bringing old products into new markets. Quick Frozen Foods International magazine reporters were on hand at both venues, sampling and studying the product lines aimed in whole or part at multinational end-users. A review of some of the more interesting items follows.

Arctic Surf Clams

With the discriminating Japanese hokkigai clam market very much in mind, Clearwater Fine Foods Inc. has come out with a one-kilo (2.2 lbs.) box of Arctic Surf Clams. Produced in Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada, the blanched, IQF frozen-at-sea clam meat is shucked and prepared for the convenience of sushi chefs.

Clearwater, a recipient of the Canada Business Excellence Award, packs the striking red and white meat in a colorful container that graphically depicts a scene from the "ice-cold Canadian North Atlantic" -- complete with an eye-appealing tray of hokkigai sushi hovering over it.

Fresh Frozen Oysters

From the Chesapeake Bay in Lottsburg, Virginia, USA, hail Sea Mist Oysters on the Half Shell and Oysters Rockefeller. A half-dozen units come per 4.5-ounce (127g) tray pack, which can be ready to serve direct from the freezer after just eight minutes of microwaving.

The packer is Cowart Seafood Corp., a vertically integrated shellfish grower and processor. It garnishes Oyster Rockefeller with spinach, vegetable oil, parmesan cheese, onions, bacon bits, salt, celery seed, parsley flakes and Worcestershire sauce.

"The products are vacuum-packed after IQF freezing to seal in moisture and prevent dehydration. When thawed after being frozen for six months, the oysters retain their appearance, moisture and freshness," said Lake Cowart, Jr., vice president.

Soft Shell Crabs

Another Virginia company, Shore Seafoods of Saxis, has introduced Chesapeake Bay Delights to the Japanese market under the James Shogun sub-brand. The soft crab specialty is marketed in sizes ranging from mediums (3.5 to 4 inches tip to tip, packed 10-5 dozen) to whales (5.5 inches and up, packed 10-1-1/2 dozen). They are dressed and individually wrapped in boxes sporting an elegant tablecloth serving presentation.

An original Chesapeake Bay delicacy that has been winning global converts over the past century, today the blue crab is available year-round thanks to freezing technology. The animal is harvested from May to October, after shedding its hard outer shell in preparation for growth. Foodservice applications range from entree recipe and dinner dishes to upscale sandwiches.

John T. Handy Co.

A veteran of the soft shell crab export business is John T. Handy Co. of Crisfield, Maryland, USA. It is now marketing jumbo sizes in 10-ounce retail packs to supermarkets. Freshly-shed crabs are dressed, placed in trays in units of four, frozen cryogenically in less than 15 minutes, glazed and sealed. The trays are then inserted in plastic bags ready to go into cabinets upon arrival in stores.

The company's main line caters to foodservice operators. Other products carried include Maryland-style crab cakes and IQF dressed soft shell crawfish.

Rock Shrimp

Rock Shrimp is being offered in retail and foodservice bags under the Master Marine label by International Oceanic Enterprises, Bayou LaBatre, Alabama, USA. The product may be procured in three forms: nitrogen-frozen IQF, block frozen or fresh. Counts vary from 40/50 to 90/110.

"Found only off the coast of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico, rock shrimp offers the succulent taste and texture of lobster, plus the convenience and versatility of peeled and deveined shrimp," said Robert J. Finamore, sales manager. "It is easily substituted in recipes calling for lobster or shrimp."

Stuffed Main Lobster

Down East Stuffed Maine Lobster is produced for foodservice and retail deli operators not keen on dealing with the difficulty and expense of handling live lobsters. Packed by Claw Island Foods, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, the raw material is sourced from waters off Vinalhaven Island, Maine.

After the lobster is thoroughly cooked, claws and knuckles are removed. Then it is split from head to tail before being stuffed with lobster chunks and ingredients such as cracker crumbs, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, chopped onion, paprika and parsley. Freezing follows using the company's proprietary SeaLock process.

"Since we've taken care of the most time consuming steps, restaurateurs enjoy the benefits of reduced labor costs, energy savings and less preparation time -- all of which translates into increased profits," boasts a promotional brochure. "This product is so easy to eat that there is no need for providing the customer with special shell crackers, forks or bibs."

Shrimp Poppers

Rich-SeaPak Corp. has come out with Shrimp Poppers in six-ounce boxes for the retail market. Ready to serve after 10 minutes of oven baking, the minced shrimp are coated in extra-crunchy bread crumbs. Another version of the product is available for the foodservice industry. A special formulation enables the shrimp to hold flavor and crispness for up to an hour on steam tables and under heat lamps.

Also new from the St. Simons Island, Georgia, USA-headquartered packer is Cajun Popcorn Shrimp, featuring zesty Louisiana-style herbs and spices. Packed in six-ounce polybags, the foodservice item is being promoted for use at hot bars, buffets, sporting events and theme parks.

"Fun, comfort foods the whole family can enjoy will be 'in' during the 1990s," said Ken Wheeler, director of new products marketing for Rich-SeaPak. "New lines of convenience products, which are spiced, seasoned and sometimes cooked before being shipped to retailers or foodservice customers, are broadening seafood's appeal in restaurants and homes. Breaded shrimp is no longer difficult to prepare at home thanks to new coating technologies that provide superior texture and less greasiness."

Dual Batter Dipt

The USA subsidiary of Lysaker, Norway-based Frionor A/S has unveiled a foodservice line of canola oil-balanced batter dipt cod, pollock and whiting that reportedly can be prepared equally well in fryers and ovens. "The puffy batter cooks up deep golden brown with a smooth, crisp finish and mild flavor," said Susan Faria.

Lobster Crown-Pacs

New from value added lobster specialist Sogelco International of Montreal, Quebec, are Crown-Pac Singles and Deli Magic boxes. The former may be procured either partly or fully cooked in 10.6-ounce (300g) see-through, vacuum skin packs. Single or double units are available, as is private label packaging.

The company's Deli Magic pack weighs 170 grams and contains frozen, cooked claw and knuckle meat cut from market size (one pound and up) lobsters.

Clam Chowda

After achieving success on the foodservice front and among wholesale club stores such as B.J.'s, Bay State Chowda Co. of Lowell, Massachusetts, is offering frozen chowders, bisques and stews in single-pack retail presentations. Its New England Clam Chowda comes in a 16-ounce plastic Cryovac pouch ready for boiling or microwaving. Ingredients are clams, clam broth, cream, potatoes, roux and seasoning.

"Based on the demand the item has already generated in the non-retail sector, we believe that it will go over well in supermarkets too," said Joseph H. Jolly, vice president of development. "The foodservice cost boils down to about 70-cents a cup, or 10-cents an ounce. The unit price for retail packs will be $1.85 to distributors, or $22.50 per case of 12. Rockport Lobster Bisque will sell for the same, while Nantucket Seafood Chowda and New Bedford Fisherman's Stew are both listing at $2.10 a unit, or $22.50 per case.

Mini Crepes

Canadian packer Gastronomie Gaspesienne, Inc., of Quebec has brought out a new Mini Crepes retail box containing nine microwavable seafood-based hors d'oeuvres and nine ham and cheese units. The former are stuffed with a creamy blend of shrimp, scallops, cod and sole. Distribution in the USA is being handled by Great Northern Products Ltd., Warwick, Rhode Island. Wholesale cost is $22.80 a case, or $1.90 per box.

Nile Perch Fillets

Battered, breaded and pre-fried Nile Perch Fillets in retail packs are now being offered to export markets by Dag-Shan of the Beith Shan and Jordan Valley. The raw material is sourced from local fresh-water ponds in a fish breeding region where tilapia, carp and other species are also raised.

Other fillets in the Dag Shan line include halibut, redfish and sole. Also available are Fish Nuggets with sesame seeds and Fish and Vegetable Cutlets. All are packed according to parve and kosher specifications, and come in both retail- and foodservice-size units.

Boned Kippers

Boned Kippers with butter, a longtime breakfast favorite in the British Isles, has crossed the Atlantic in frozen form under the Sheltie brand packed by L. Williamson (Shetland) Ltd. Arthur Williamson, managing director, told Quick Frozen Foods International that he hopes to find customers for the 170g retail pack in the USA and Canada.

The smoked herring product comes in a bag which may be either boiled in water or microwaved. "We think that Kippers is the kind of product that will appeal to American fish lovers as not only something to be eaten for breakfast, but also during other meal occasions," said Williamson.

Stuffed Clams

Clams were very much "in season" at the Boston show, ranging from stuffed to fillet varieties. Frozen Gourmet Stuffed Clams under the Whitecap label were exhibited by Blount Seafood Corp., Warren, Rhode Island. Flavors include: Original (garnished with red and green peppers with a hint of garlic); Casino (a blend of bacon and parmesan cheese); and Jalapeno (billed as "zesty south-of-the border bits").

"We pack them in natural clam shells which serve up more clam than stuffing," said John Durkin, sales and marketing director. "They're the kind of appetizers that restaurant patrons don't mind paying extra for. Supermarket deli sections are also starting to feature them.

The product is being distributed in 12/12-ounce four-packs, 3/12/3-ounce and 6/64-ounce bulk packs.

Sea Clam Fillets

Sea Clam Fillets are new from Galilean Seafoods of Bristol, Rhode Island. Marketed to the foodservice industry as a center-of-the-plate product, the Georges Banks-sourced raw material may be served up as a clam steak or in nugget form. Distribution is in 6 x 4 lb. packs.

"We've developed a tenderization process that enables chefs to prepare Clam Fillets much the same way as chicken breasts, veal cutlets or abalone steaks for only a fraction of their costs," said Sid Dogon, sales director.

Crab-a-Teasers

Peninsular Seafoods of Tampa, Fla., has brought out Krab-a-Teasers. The IQF product features lightly breaded imitation crabmeat with a touch of garlic. They are sold as appetizers or entree accompaniments in counts of 50 to 60 per pound.

Crab Balls

Maryland Gourmet Crab Balls and Cake in a Bun have been rolled out by Martin Foods of Baltimore, Md. The former is an appetizer filled with 80% backfin crabmeat sourced from the Chesapeake Bay. Each ball weighs between .33 and .50 oz. The pre-fried product is shipped in cases of 288 units.

Cake in a Bun

Martin's new Cake in a Bun features a pre-cooked crab cake packaged between a 3" hamburger bun pre-wrapped in plastic. Preparation by microwave oven takes just one minute, which should make the item popular among convenience store and vending machine operators.

Conch Fritters

Another new appetizer making the scene is Neptune brand Conch Fritters from Triton Seafood Co. of Medley, Fla. The battered product features Caribbean queen conch white meat seasoned with bell peppers, black pepper, garlic, lime juice and other ingredients. The round, pre-cooked IQF fritters weight about .65 ounces each. They are shipped in plastic bags containing 125 units.

Gator Delites

Nunez Alligator Products International of Dade City, Fla., introduced Gator Delites at the seafood show. Made of 100% restructured farm-raised alligator meat, the product is marketed as an appetizer or shishkabob item. The IQF finger food is shipped frozen in cases of eight 5-lb. polybags.

Ernie Nunez told QFFI that alligator meat is low in saturated fatty acids and high in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which is good news for those consumers watching their cholesterol counts.

Two-Pound Fillet Packs

Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based producer, packer, importer and exporter of seafood, launched its Sea-Best brand of frozen fillets in two-pound retail cartons made with International Paper's Everest board.

The boxes of flounder, perch, whiting, sea trout and other seafood varieties are being introduced in supermarkets throughout the USA as well as export markets. The exceptionally printable board is said to stand up well during freeze-thaw cycles.

Healthy Bake-28

Fishery Products International unveiled HealthyBake-28, a fish fillet item that surpasses US government dietary guidelines. Each four-ounce serving has 160 calories, of which only 28% come from fat. This is below the 30% recommended level by the US Surgeon General and the American Heart Association.

Healthy Bake-28, available in both cod and pollock fillets, features a mild flavor and flaky, white texture. Baked or broiled, a light crumb coating gives them a golden appearance.

Plenty of Room to Fish For Portuguese Fishermen

It's far from being the largest or most populous nation in the European Community, but Portugal has the largest EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) by far -- some 1.7 million square kilometers, according to Eurico Pimenta de Brito, Director General of Fisheries.

All that resource, which includes 200 miles around the Azores and Madeira as well as off the coast of continental Portugal, brings in a steady catch of about 220,000 tons a year, and catch from external waters averages another 100,000.

For 1990, frozen fish accounted for 73,000 tons of the catch from domestic and other waters (vs. 249,000 tons fresh), and for 130,000 tons of imports (vs. 272,000 salted -- fresh imports were only 18,000). Most of the 1990 exports -- 69,000 tons -- were also frozen.

Portuguese per capita fish and seafood consumption, 60 kilograms a year, is the highest in Europe, and domestic production can't meet demand: imports reached 420,000 tons in 1990 (total consumption was 599,000), while exports were only 91,000. Yet the fisheries industry as a whole accounts for just two percent of Portugal's gross domestic product, and fishing activity per se for only one percent.

Since it became a member of the European Community, Pimenta de Brito said, Portugal has tried to modernize its seafood sector. "It is foreseeable that in the nineties, mainly as a result of fleet and industry adjustment to the development of resources, there will be a growth in production from fisheries and aquaculture, as well as from the processing industry," he predicted. Aquaculture is still in its infancy, with an output in 1991 of 10,700 tons (mainly clams from the Algarve region) vs. 4,500 in 1986.

The main species of fish caught for processing (primarily freezing) are cod, redfish, American plaice, turbot, squid, hake and sea bream. Mackerel (horse, chub and blue jack), whiting, scabbardfish, sardines, octopus and others are primarily for the fresh market. Expansion of both the canning and freezing industries is being encouraged, as is the introduction of a new generation of frozen products such as pre-cooked fish and surimi -- as opposed to the salted cod (largely imported) that has previously been a staple of the Portuguese diet.
COPYRIGHT 1993 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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