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Marketing Forum: New products take on a European flavor

The more consumers are exposed to new foods from
    around the world, the more they will be looking for new options
    from the seafood industry.
By Pat Shanahan
July 01, 2006

As a longtime observer of product development in the seafood category, I have noticed a global cross-pollination of new-product ideas recently. This isn't surprising, since food developers, marketers and consumers are all traveling more and being exposed to new cultures and foods.

Today, products once thought of as merely good ideas become available quickly through expanded technology and global processing capabilities.

Particularly noteworthy are some promising new ideas recently introduced to the U.S. market that utilize product forms and technologies successfully adopted in Europe. Both winners in the International Boston Seafood Show New Products Com­petition this year drew on ideas from Europe.

The retail winner, Bistro Fresh Kashmiri Salmon with Rice and Vegetables, uses a microwave steam package first introduced in Europe four years ago for fresh seafood entrées. Cryofresh Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, the foodservice winner, is an easy-to-serve dish popular at all levels of retail and foodservice in Europe and available in a wide variety of species.

Here are some recent product trends seen at the European Seafood Expo­sition Prix d'Elite competition that could succeed here:

Rillettes : This classic French spread is usually made from cooked meat pulverized to a spreadable consistency, then "potted," or packed in a ramekin. The modern seafood version of this convenient appetizer is popping up all over Western Europe. Combined with vegetables and seasonings, cooked tuna, mackerel, salmon and shrimp rillettes were all introduced recently. The flavor combinations and hearty texture of these spreads offer a welcome alternative to the smoked-salmon-and-cream cheese spread offered by nearly every grocer in the country.

Tapas: Europeans have taken Spanish tapas, traditionally made-to-order restaurant fare, to new heights by offering a wide selection of pre-made items for retail and foodservice. Various shellfish and finfish are presented in a dizzying array of curries, ethnic sauces and marinades. Packed for bulk sales and in a variety of retail packs, and available fresh or frozen, these products work for many different kinds of outlets.

Snack foods: In Europe, snack foods go well beyond the chips, popcorn and candy typical in the United States. Seafood plays a major role in this category, which moves fish beyond the center of the plate by offering lots of convenient items for appetizers, snacks or light meals. Manufacturers have also made seafood snacks very exciting by combining different tastes in one package. For example, one product brings together four different shrimp and vegetable skewers, each with a different marinade. Elegant seafood and vegetable mousselines are packed in clear single serving pots, with every pack offering two flavors. Even skewered breaded shrimp with various flavor coatings are presented on teppo-sticks, each bearing the name of the flavor.

Mi-cuit: Defined as partially cooked, "mi-cuit" is a common way to prepare foie gras. This technique is now incorporating seafood to produce interesting entrée and appetizer options targeting higher-end restaurants, retailers and specialty-food stores.

The more consumers are exposed to new foods from around the world, the more they will be looking for new options from the seafood industry. Innovative manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operations should capture a part of this growing trend.


Pat Shanahan is a strategic planning and marketing consultant specializing in the seafood industry


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