KANSAS CITY - Cod, halibut and snapper are among the top sellers among many types of whitefish marketed by Bensenville, Ill.-based Fortune Fish & Gourmet, said Keane Amdahl, a Fortune marketing director.

The Alaskan halibut season, which kicks off in mid-March and runs into fall, is always a favorite of both consumers and fishmongers.

“It’s pretty highly anticipated,” Amdahl said. “It’s a really meaty, substantial fish with a mild but good flavor. It’s clean and fresh, not like an oily fish that might turn people off.”

The fact that it’s wild-caught also is increasingly attractive to today’s sustainability-minded consumers, he added.

“It’s a very well-managed fishery. Customers are always becoming a little more aware of conscious of those things, and we try to talk them through it.”

At its retail stores in Minnesota, Fortune trains staff to discuss sustainability and other issues with customers in-store. The company also hosts  classes on sustainability that feature cooking demos.

“We try to make ourselves available,” Amdahl said.

Another whitefish favorite at Fortune, cod, is popular year-round, Amdahl said.

And an up-and-comer in the category for the company is an aquaculture striped bass sourced from Baja Mexico.

While the variety is farmed, it is done so in a clean, sustainable way that Fortune customers have found very appealing, Amdahl said.

“It’s a great grilling fish,” he said. “It’s the only true farmed striped bass. You see a lot of hybrid striped bass, that are a cross of saltwater and freshwater. This is a true striped sea bass.”

The fish ships under the Pacifico brand, which has proven useful in generating recognition and repeat sales.

“We push brand recognition with certain things, it helps with understanding sustainability. Customers are starting to know this fish.”

During the pandemic, Fortune has seen an uptick of sales in bronzini, whole and yellowtail snapper and many other varieties of whitefish, as home chefs stuck at home seek out variety in their protein options.

For many, it’s turned into a habit, he said, which is one sign that it’s a behavior that’s here to stay.

“I think at least to some degree, the trend of people cooking fish at home will continue” after the pandemic is over, he said. “At our retail stores we see people all the time, buying weekly or biweekly, when before they rarely if ever came in. People are doing sushi at home, grilling, etc.”

One trend within that trend is increased purchases of whole fish, Amdahl said.

“Whole fish, prior to the pandemic, is not something we sold a whole lot of it. It’s fantastic, a great way to go. It’s a more cost-effective buy, whole fish, and you can do more with it.”

Peter Pan rolls out two new cod products

Anchorage, Alaska-based Peter San Seafood is introducing Miso Marinated Wild Alaska Black Cod and Pacific Cod to its whitefish product roster.

The products were developed for a key retailer with consultation from a professional chef, said Ken Taylor, vice president of purchasing, sales and logistics.

“We’re seeing black cod grow in popularity in the US,” Taylor said. “People really enjoy its buttery flavor.”

Peter Pan’s top whitefish sellers are Pacific cod and halibut, the varieties consumers have most experience cooking with, he said.

The company’s current lineup of Alaskan whitefish includes black cod, halibut, Pacific cod and pollock. Peter Pan fulfills orders for fillet and portion specifications per its retailers’ requests for their full-service and self-service customers, Taylor said.

In recent years, whitefish fisheries have enjoyed good management, and most species’ numbers are healthy, he added. That’s made it easier for Peter Pan to come up with new products and get its retail partners excited about them.

“We work closely with our retailers to help identify what items move best for their consumers. Based on that feedback, coupled with chef collaboration to develop restaurant-quality products that include seasoning and marinating, we’ve introduced new product forms and value-added items that are both easier for the seafood departments to handle and simpler for the consumer to take home and prepare,” Taylor said.

Not only are people eating more fish, he added, but they’re also more motivated to purchase eco-convenient products than ever before — things that are easy to prepare but are also responsibly sourced and environmentally friendly. Peter Pan  — which follows strict grading and quality standards, is a product of the USA and caught in Alaska — is a natural fit for these trends, he said.

“Consumers today see the brands they support as catalysts for change; they seek out companies that share their values and play a role in making the world a better place. At Peter Pan, we have a culture of continuous improvement — meaning the company is actively engaged in how we can do better by our people, by the coastal communities of Alaska, and by the world’s oceans.”

SeaPak diversifies whitefish roster with new cod product

Coconut is all the rage as a flavor and texture, and SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Co.’s latest product innovation taps into that surging demand.

St. Simons Island, Ga.-based SeaPak’s new Coconut Cod product hopes to build on the success of another SeaPak specialty, Jumbo Coconut Shrimp.

"When most people think of cod, they think of its mild, slightly sweet flavor. Cod is an excellent staple at the dinner table," said Kristen Beadon, director of marketing for SeaPak. "With Coconut Cod, you're getting the best of both worlds – unmatched flavor and added crunch. Just grab your favorite dipping sauce for an extra burst of delicious."

Packed with 12 grams of protein per serving, Coconut Cod is also the perfect snack or entree to fill the 2-3 fish servings per week recommendation from Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Beadon said.

It's also easy to prepare.

"You can bake Coconut Cod in your conventional oven, your toaster oven, or even just drop a batch into your air fryer basket," said Beadon. "Whichever way you choose, your crispy, crunchy cod will be ready to go within minutes."

Coconut Cod, which comes in   a 7.5-ounce pack, is the latest in the company's line of seafood products, which also includes Popcorn Shrimp, Lobster & Shrimp Bites, and Shrimp Sea Pals.

Whitefish among record-setting USDA seafood purchase

Alaskan pollock and Pacific whiting filets are two of the seafood and other agricultural products the US Department of Agriculture is buying in an effort to aid both those in need and producers hit hard by COVID.

The seafood part of the buy is the largest-ever seafood purchase by the agency.

In all, up to $159.4 million in domestically produced seafood, fruits, legumes, and nuts will be purchased and distributed to a variety of domestic food assistance programs, including charitable institutions.

The purchases include $20 million for Alaskan pollock and $9 million for Pacific whiting filets.

“The impacts of COVID-19 reverberated from our farms to our oceans,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “US fisheries and the American seafood industry were dealt a heavy blow. USDA is pleased to make the largest single seafood purchase in the department’s history.”

Other seafood products included in the purchase include Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic wild-caught shrimp, Pacific pink shrimp, Pacific rockfish fillets and sockeye (red) salmon.

The inventories of these commodities are in high oversupply due to a decrease in demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption in the supply chain, as restaurants and other outlets closed during the pandemic.

Within a few days of approval, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service will offer the commodities to their networks. Orders should be received during the first week of June with solicitations being issued mid-June and awards occurring near the end of the month. Deliveries should start to occur by mid-August.

The purchases are being made utilizing funds under the authority of Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (Pub. L. 74-320), as amended (Section 32). This is one of many actions USDA is taking to address the disruptions in the food system supply chain and worsened food insecurity resulting from the pandemic.