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Special Feature: Soups and chowders

Bold flavors, high-quality offerings stand out

This creamy shrimp and pancetta soup from Blount is new for foodservice. - Photo courtesy of Blount Fine Foods
By Melissa Wood
July 01, 2012

After winning for three straight years, chef Eric Jungklaus wasn’t allowed to compete in the Great Chowder Cookoff this June. But although his popular Tony’s World Famous Chowder has been retired to the Newport, R.I., contest’s hall of fame, it will soon be available to an even wider audience when it is introduced as a new brand for foodservice and eventually retail.

Jungklaus, chef at the 54-seat Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in Cedar Key, Fla., had the idea to develop a chowder recipe after living in the Boston area seven years ago. 

“I tried a lot of chowders all around New England and one of the things I noticed was that a lot of them didn’t have much flavor,” he says.

In becoming a brand, Tony’s World Famous Chowder has come full circle. Jungklaus came up with a speed-scratch recipe using Sea Watch International’s clam chowder as a base with fresh ingredients. Officially a secret, additions include spices, garlic, butter, bacon and “a pepper element that most people just fall in love with,” he says. “It has a flavor profile unlike any other chowder that you’ve ever tried.”

Now, he is working with Sea Watch to develop Tony’s World Famous, which will soon be available for foodservice distribution in Florida and New England.  

“His is a big, bold, spicy clam chowder,” says Guy Simmons, VP of marketing and product development for Sea Watch in Easton, Md. Simmons is seeing a trend in bold flavors for seafood soups and chowders in foodservice. 

“I would say that the majority of our customers who buy our clam chowder are definitely using it as a base. I think they’re opening up the can, they’re adding three or four ingredients and serving it in a much higher fashion,” says Simmons. 

He says soup is also playing a role in the growing trend of ethnic foods. Clear-broth seafood soups like hot pots from the Pacific Rim or Zuppa di Vongole, a Mediterranean soup made with tomatoes, onions, olives with clams and clam juice, are healthy as well. 

On the retail side, sales for the $6.4 billion U.S. soup industry were flat from 2010 to 2011, according to Mintel, a London-based market research company. Mintel’s U.S. industry report surmised that, despite challenges, manufacturers are investing in trendy flavors and new products to expand soup beyond its role as a winter comfort food to be used in meal preparation or as a whole meal. 

“The good news is that people are eating more soup. It’s becoming a meal solution,” says Bob Sewall, executive VP-sales and marketing for Blount Fine Foods in Fall River, Mass. 

Blount, which offers seafood soups for foodservice and retail, introduced a fresh, refrigerated 16-ounce retail version of its Legal Sea Foods brand a year ago. Flavors include lobster bisque, New England clam chowder and shrimp and corn chowder. 

“Certainly Legal’s quality at the restaurant level is such that people understand the quality of their brand,” says Sewall. 

For its foodservice customers, Blount’s newest seafood soup is shrimp and pancetta, which Sewall describes as creamy and decadent.

Another new product is the Ultimate 3 Clam Chowder introduced by Fortun Foods in Kirkland, Wash., at the International Boston Seafood Show in March.

According to Mary Shepard, director of retail and foodservice sales, the “ultimate” means using three types of clams — cockle, sea and ocean — and fresh ingredients cooked in small batches.

The chowder is available for foodservice, and Shepard expects retail packaging this summer. She says responses have been positive with some seafood restaurants putting it on their menus alongside their traditional clam chowders but pricing it 50 cents to $1 more. 

Email Assistant Editor Melissa Wood at mwood@divcom.com 

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