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With American appetite for Surimi on rise, new raw material source seen in Alaska.

With American Appetite for Surimi on Rise, New Raw Material Source Seen in Alaska

The United States market for surimi, which was almost nonexistent 15 years ago, is estimated to be growing at an annual rate of 10%. Per capita consumption hit three-quarters of a pound in 1990, a year when 176,000 metric tons of surimi was produced from pollock caught in waters off Alaska.

Steady growth is anticipated with optimistic forecasts calling for consumption to triple to 1.5 pounds per person by the end of the decade. Still, that is a far cry from the 18 pounds eaten by the average Japanese - which accounts for roughly a quarter of his total yearly consumption of seafood. Interestingly, American surimi producers now supply Japan with 25% of the country's 400,000 metric ton requirement per annum.

Surimi seafood products sold in the USA are largely made from pollock, a formerly underutilized species that is now in great demand. The fish is very similar to taste and texture to Atlantic cod, which has long been a national favorite. As cod supplies have been weak for the past several years, many seafood processors and food-service establishments began using the abundant Alaska pollock as a substitute. Pressure on the resource forced up prices and prompted the U.S. government to establish season catch quotas.

But perhaps another Alaska groundfish can be used to make surimi seafoods. The arrowtooth flounder, among the most abundant species found in world oceans, has not previously been considered as an ingredient for surimi because it contains an enzyme that has caused texture problems when processing the fish flesh. However, research sponsored by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation has resulted in an enzyme-inhibitor which prevents this post-catch change in texture. There are several other underutilized species being considered for adaptation to the surimi process, including Pacific whiting, hake and menhaden. So, it is reasonable to assume that additional sources of surimi will be available to maintain the supply.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are busy developing and marketing new forms of the product to meet growing demand. Now joining popular imitation crabmeat on the market are imitation lobster, scallops, smoked salmon and shrimp analogs. The product line is increasingly being marketed in single-serve package containers with special dipping sauces, and in premixed, bulk packs for deli salads.
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Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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