« July 2007 Table of Contents
Product Spotlight: Barramundi
U.S. market acceptance of Australian sea bass paves the way for future growth
By April Forristall
July 01, 2007
Barramundi has been called "the next big fish" by chefs and
food editors around the nation over the past year and was
deemed a "hot seafood trend" at this year's Seafood Summit
sponsored by the Seafood Choices Alliance. The mild-flavored
whitefish farmed in western Massachusetts is working its way
from high-end restaurants all the way down to mid-scale grocery
A member of the sea bass family, barramundi originally hail
from Australia, which explains its popularity Down Under.
Raised in the United States by Australis Aquaculture in Turners
Falls, Mass., barramundi is generally regarded as a high-end
fish, reeling in prices in the mid-$20 range at restaurants.
Prized for its sweet, buttery taste and delicate texture,
barramundi holds up well to a variety of flavors and ingredient
combinations, lending itself generously to sauces and spices.
It can be baked, broiled, fried, sautéed, steamed, poached,
roasted whole or grilled - even the skin is edible. Its fat
content keeps it from drying out and barramundi's white flaky
texture and taste prompted its use as an ingredient on "Iron
"[Barramundi] is a very versatile fish with a mild, sweet
flesh," says Anita Lo, chef and owner of Annisa in New York. "I
don't have a favorite recipe, but I think it's best sautéed
with the skin
on. The skin crisps up exceptionally well."
The Sea Grill in New York's Rockefeller Center serves whole
grilled barramundi with wild arugula-roasted fennel, spring
vegetables and Sorrento lemon olive oil for $34. RM Seafood in
Las Vegas serves pan-seared barramundi with sweet onion
soubise, crispy shallots and sherry gastrique. Phillips Seafood
Restaurants in Philadelphia and Atlantic City feature roasted
barramundi with warm vegetable salad for $25.99.
Barramundi's hardy nature and fast growth rate of less than
a year make it well-suited for aquaculture. Australis began
importing fingerlings from hatcheries in Northern Australia and
raising them to harvest size of 1.5 to 2 pounds at its indoor
fish farm in 2003. The company ships about 15,000 to 20,000
pounds weekly at $4 to $5 per pound wholesale, to both
retailers and restaurants.
"We have introduced Australis barramundi as a special item
to a number of retailers and specialty markets throughout the
country. Whole Foods has promoted it on occasion in the
Northeast and in the Seattle area. We are in talks with several
major retail and club chains to carry our fresh and frozen
barramundi in the months ahead," says Carol Devine, Australis'
VP of marketing and strategic development. The company is in
the final stages of increasing its U.S. production by 40
But Australis isn't the only game in town. Triar Seafoods in
Hollywood, Fla., began supplying barramundi to U.S. customers
in 2002. The company imports the fish from Humpty Doo
Barramundi farm near Darwin, Australia, flying in approximately
2,000 pounds of fish a week, according to Triar President Peter
Jarvis. Triar sells its barramundi fillets wholesale for $12.95
to $15.95 per pound to restaurants, hotels and some retail
markets. Jarvis doesn't expect the fish will move beyond the
"There has never been anything inexpensive about it,"
But Australis' Devine disagrees, saying that supply just
hasn't met the demand - yet.
Last month Australis inked a deal with a Vietnamese
aquaculture group to produce barramundi in Central Vietnam
beginning in August. The product will be offered frozen to
chain restaurants and retail markets.
"Our strategy was always to enter this market first by the
white tablecloth restaurants and gain chef credibility, which
has worked beautifully. The fish is extremely popular," Devine
says. "The goal was always to cascade that down to the
restaurant and retail chains as our production grew. We are in
the midst of doubling production right now, so with all of the
new fish that we'll start seeing this summer we'll be able to
enter more retail markets and more restaurants. We're very
excited about that."
Rarely does a new fish receive such positive and rapid
embrace as barramundi has. Due to its eco-friendliness it is
poised to become the whitefish of choice for upscale
restaurants and retailers across America.
Editorial Assistant April Forristall can be e-mailed at