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Spotlight: Smoked salmon
Domestic producers defend market with high-quality product
By April Forristall
January 01, 2009
Smoked salmon is cherished all over the world because of its
flavor. Different woods used during the smoking process impart
a distinct taste and the salmon's fat content welcomes the
process because the oils absorb and retain the flavor.
"We've tried smoking other [seafood] and it works well in
some markets, but it's not overall like salmon," says Franco
director of U.S. smoked salmon sales for Marine
Harvest. "People are used to salmon, it's traditional and what
you expect from a smoked product."
Steve Nicholson, VP of MacKnight Smoked Salmon, concurs.
"It's always been a very widely eaten fish and people are more
willing to try it," says Nicholson, adding that rising
commercial availability due to increased and advanced
production methods, as well as the influence of the booming
sushi market have helped expand smoked salmon's market
And it shows in the numbers. Miami-based MacKnight recently
introduced a smoked salmon prosciutto-like retail and
foodservicce product, generating 17 new accounts in just 10
days. "The market is loving it," says Nicholson.
Acme Smoked Fish of Brooklyn, N.Y., also recently launched
the Ruby Bay brand of retail and foodservice farmed and wild
The holiday season brings a boost in smoked salmon
"It's very, very seasonal," says Nicholson. "As soon as
people want a treat and have more money - from Thanksgiving
through the Jewish holidays and Christmas it's very busy. Then
it picks up again for Easter."
One edge for smoked salmon products is kosher
"I think that people respect and are comfortable with
products that are under kosher supervision," says Buzz Billick,
VP of sales and marketing at Acme. "Not only consumers that may
be Jewish or ethnic, but really all customers appreciate the
extra time and attention to detail that is required [in kosher
That level of quality also keeps U.S . suppliers competitive
against lower-priced imports.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, smoked
salmon imports from Chile through September 2008 increased by
more than 440,000 pounds from the same period in 2007, along
with increased imports from Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands,
Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
MacKnight has lowered prices to "stay competitive," but
Nicholson says the quality of the imported products can't
Acme's Billick agrees.
"There are imports, but there are always imports," he says.
"Today many of the imports available here are available for
less. But it's not superior in taste or quality."
Due to concerns regarding listeria in imported smoked
product, and the resulting U.S. Food and Drug Administration
inspections, Acme's sales haven't been impacted by cheaper
imports. Marine Harvest's Nardini agrees quality is what keeps
customers coming back.
"If something is really giving you pleasure, it's difficult
to stay away from it," he says.
SeafoodSource Assistant Editor April Forristall can be
e-mailed at email@example.com