KANSAS CITY— The demand for retail fresh seafood options soared during the pandemic, as consumers desperate for new meal ideas got over their fears of cooking seafood at home. Meanwhile, demand for convenience items has continued the surge it’s enjoyed since well before COVID. Put those two ideas together, and the prospects for value-added seafood at retail have never been better. 

Medley, Fla.-based Mowi USA has invested heavily in the value-added retail seafood category with its Essential Atlantic Salmon pre-packed line, which makes it possible for all supermarket shoppers to access high-quality salmon, said Diana Dumet, Mowi’s marketing director.

“Before, salmon was considered the protein of affluent eaters,” Dumet said, adding that it was also largely a foodservice option because people weren’t sure how to prepare it at home. “But the pre-packed consumer product format, combined with the logistics network of Mowi and the vertical integration of our company, makes it possible to offer an attainable option for all consumers.”

The line is sold at a wide variety of traditional grocery stores, online channels, Hispanic grocery experts, discount markets and chains, with customers including Amazon Fresh, Target, Grocery Outlet and Northgate Market.

Seafood still doesn’t command the square footage of other proteins at most grocery stores, but new value-added products have helped it catch up, Dumet said.

“It continues to grow at those retailers that have recognized that seafood has an unlocked potential yet to be maximized,” she said.

The Mowi Essential line now offers a variety of value-added Atlantic salmon products in different family and individual portion cuts to suit different meal occasions. And for those cooks looking for a convenience experience, many Mowi Essential products come seasoned in a variety of flavors from sweet to spicy. The company also has new value-added salmon products flavored with butter.

Tuscan Herb was the first flavor to kick off Mowi Essential last year. In 2021, the company has added Sweet Bourbon, Honey Maple, Monterrey Isles and other flavors. 

New takes on salmon 

Value-added retail seafood products from Washington, D.C.-based Blue Circle Foods include frozen portions, smoked salmon and salmon burgers, said Ashley Meadows, the company’s digital marketing manager. 

Blue Circle also recently launched Salmon Salad, which the company is billing as a sustainable and clean alternative to tuna fish salad. The ready-to-eat product, often sold in instore delis, has no mercury or other additives.

Other evolutions in the Blue Circle value-added roster in recent years include additional species added to its frozen lineup. Black Tiger Colossal and Extra-Large shrimp are among the most recent highlights, Meadows said.

Top sellers in Blue Circle’s value-added lineup include smoked salmon, both in stores and online, said Nina Damato, the company’s product director.

Customers love the taste, which is rich and flavorful, Damato said, but they also love that Blue Circle doesn’t treat its salmon with antibiotics or added hormones. 

“We keep the ingredient list clean and simple, no artificial preservatives or sugar – just salmon, smoke and salt,” she said. “Our burgers have also sold quickly. Customers love the taste and love that they’re made with only four simple ingredients.”

Blue Circle has seen steady growth in its value-added sales over the past year, Meadows said. Consumers are becoming more discerning, she said. They want healthy foods that taste delicious and help them in different aspects of their lives — improving memory or increasing vitamin intake, to name two — and they want their food to be simple to prepare.

“Seafood really covers all these things, so I think it makes sense that consumers are looking to eat more, she said. “We’re working on a lot of products for the coming year to build out our value-added line even more.”

Blue Circle is also working hard to incorporate more kid-friendly products to help encourage younger generations to love seafood. The company recently reworked its Happy Fish formula to include lemon, which Meadows said helps elevate the flavor and make it even more appealing to kids. Happy Fish are ready to eat in just minutes, making them a perfect fit to the company’s value-added roster.

Seafood, meet burger 

A Wild-caught Alaskan Salmon Burger is the latest value-added innovation from St. Simons Island, Ga.-based SeaPak.

A better-for-you alternative to traditional grilling proteins, SeaPak's salmon burgers combine 100% wild-caught salmon with restaurant-style seasoning, making them the perfect complement to any sandwich, salad, or summer roll, according to the company.

The burgers go well with different flavors, and SeaPak has come up with three recipes consumers can use with the burgers: Chipotle Ranch Salmon Burger, Salmon Burger Lime Avocado Salad and Salmon Burger Summer Roll.

"SeaPak's Alaskan Salmon Burgers are a true summer staple," said Kristen Beadon, SeaPak’s marketing director.  "From the dining room to the backyard, these versatile burgers are approachable, packed with flavor, and easy for the whole family to enjoy."

Responsibly made with wild-caught Alaskan pink salmon that is certified by the United Nations' Responsible Fisheries Management program, SeaPak Alaskan Salmon Burgers are both healthy and nutritious, Beadon added.

"SeaPak's burgers are low in saturated fat and packed with 16 grams of protein per serving, making them a great option for summer grilling," said Kaleigh McMordie, a registered dietician and food blogger. "They also help you get in your two servings of fish per week, as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

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