News articles will often mention oily fish like salmon, mackerel and anchovies as good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But trout also belongs on that list — and thus on the minds of health-conscious consumers.
Getting the message out to consumers about health benefits of trout consumption is only part of efforts to grow the U.S. industry, which also includes the debut of new value-added products this spring.
For the U.S. farmed trout industry, the outlook is good despite challenges like rising feed costs, says Randy MacMillan, past president of the U.S. Trout Farmers Association and the National Aquaculture Association. From 2010 to 2011, the value of trout sales increased 7 percent to $76.6 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last year was also the first time that U.S. farmed trout sales saw a yearly increase since a pre-recession value of $87.5 million in 2007.
“The market has been able to bear the increased prices that we’ve had to institute because of feed ingredients,” says MacMillan.
But there’s only so much room for growth when it comes to U.S. rainbow trout.
“You have to have cold, clean, highly oxygenated water to grow rainbow trout, and there’s just not copious amounts of that in the United States,” says Don Riffle, executive VP of sales, marketing and global supply chain development for Clear Springs Foods in Buhl, Idaho. Much of that water can be found in Idaho’s Magic Valley, where 70 percent of U.S. rainbow trout is raised. Clear Springs, the world’s
largest producer, grows 60 percent of the trout here, which it sells to foodservice buyers.
Recognizing that only so much can be grown here, Clear Springs partnered with Chile 10 years ago, says Riffle.
Clear Spring’s frozen import line is about to grow again this month with the introduction of Ruby Red Trout grown in Peru’s Lake Titicaca. It is the same rainbow trout species raised in the United States but has a natural red pigment in its feed.
Chef testers of Ruby Red Trout “loved the color. It’s very vibrant and so it creates a kind of a rainbow color effect on the plate,” says Alan Kahn, VP-marketing for Clear Springs. Kahn says the frozen product will be packaged in vacuum-packed, plate-sized fillets and butterflied fillets.
“All the chef or operator has to do to prepare it is top it or coat it however they see fit,” says Kahn. “Trout has a very mild flavor so therefore they can customize it easily.”
The company is also rolling out a rainbow trout burger, which is made of 100 percent rainbow trout with light seasoning and Monterey Jack cheese. Riffle says Clear Springs saw a place for the product in the market as an alternative to salmon burgers.
“This has a much more mild flavor than salmon and we think it would have a broader appeal,” says Riffle.
Pacific Seafoods of Clackamas, Ore., also introduced new trout products this spring. At the International Boston Seafood Show in March the company showcased its Columbia River Steelhead™ and Salmolux Sea Passion® hot- and cold-smoked seafood.
Raised on the Columbia River, the steelhead is a sea-run trout with bright-red flesh. Bob O’Bryant, the company’s director of marketing, calls it his favorite salmon.
“It’s high in oil content and omega-3s, actually rivaling almost all the other farmed salmon on the market,” he says.
Pacific bought the two steelhead farms three years ago, revamped them two years ago and is now getting into a grow-out that will allow it to expand its steelhead marketing efforts. O’Bryant says 95 percent is sold fresh to foodservice and retail buyers in the West and Midwest. He expects 2012 production will double 2011 volumes.
“The demand is there,” says O’Bryant. “We’ve had to lay low as far as promoting it until we could get the production up, but now we’re in the next phase of promoting it and expanding the market base.”Email Assistant Editor Melissa Wood at email@example.com
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