Surimi Forum 2016 blog: Catch the latest news on the sector here

IntraFish Reporter Avani Nadkarni is reporting from the 16th Surimi Industry Forum in Astoria, Oregon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2:45 p.m. PST

The bad words

Most of clean labeling is getting the "bad words" out of ingredients lists, even if those ingredients are safe, tasty, good and cheap, NC State University Professor Dr. Tyre Lanier said.

In one surimi ingredient list, Lanier pointed out some "bad words" that were switched out for cleaner-sounding words, even though they were one and the same: Sea salt substituted for sodium or potassium chloride, for example.

Other "bad words" that needed to be cut included modified tapioca starch ("I don't even want to know what it's modified with"), carmine (a bug-based food dye), and color added ("it was added so it ain't right").

"You see what's left?" he said of the few paltry ingredients that remained on the list. "Not a heck of a lot and we still have to make it taste as good as it was, at a good price point, last as long. Can it be done? Yes. Can it be done cheaply? No. Can it be done easily? No."

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 2:15 p.m. PST

Ginger and umami and nostaliga, oh my!

Those are the key words of the future flavor profile, said Takasago USA's Brian Buck.

"People are moving toward some common things," he said. "When you look out there now, ginger is a big area for everyone."

Spice has long been up-and-coming, but it's still going strong -- "people are looking for spice, looking for heat," he said.

So what are the new buzzwords? Umami, for one. According to Buck's presentation, umami "is a basic taste, mainly imparted by amino acids and responded to by receptors in our mouth, but it also has an enhancing effect on other taste and flavors. Often referred to a 5th taste after sweet, sour, salty, bitter."

Examples are soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, za'tar, vegemite, mushrooms, anchovy, Parmesan and ketchup.

Another big one: "Nostalgia as an ingredient."

"You smell a certain aroma, it takes you back," Buck said. "These things are very, very powerful--using the senses to help market your product. The future is in the past. There are products we made back in the day so if we bring back now, a whole new generation is exposed to."

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 12:15 p.m. PST

'Surimi Man' speaks out

Surimi Forum organizer Jae Park knows everything there is to know about surimi -- and he spoke to IntraFish about what he thinks the outlook is for surimi in 2016.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 11:30 a.m. PST

Surimi is -- a condiment?!

The Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) have been tireless in getting the product in K-12 schools in the United States, and it's proven successful: Program Director Pat Shanahan said sales of USDA Alaska pollock have risen more than 25 percent to K-12 schools.

GAPP has worked on new product options and menu ideas -- unfortunately, surimi isn't one that's catching on much, and for an interesting reason.

"Schools do not get credit for serving surimi seafood as a protein," she said, adding that the USDA counts it as a condiment. "It doesn't get the same [recognition] as other processed proteins."

GAPP is hoping to state its case to the USDA soon.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 11:20 a.m. PST

The secret to France's high consumption ...

It's as easy as constantly getting the word out, Alliance Oceane's Jean-Luc Beliveau said.

"In France, we do a lot of marketing and advertising," he said.

The industry spends a lot of money on television ads, such as buying expensive time during European football (soccer) games. It also pours resources into advertising in supermarkets.

"When you go to the supermarket in America, finding surimi items is difficult," Beliveau said. "In France, you arrive in the supermarket and it's in the middle. We do some marketing and all the time people come not only to buy food, they want to be surprised with innovation, with marketing, with promotions. When you come, if you're not thinking about surimi, you [still] buy it because you see it."

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 11:10 a.m. PST

Europe by numbers

France is still the top market for surimi in Europe, said Alliance Oceane R&D Director Jean-Luc Beliveau, with 60,000 tons, but it hasn't been so good in the past three years.

Next is Spain with 44,000 tons, but in just a few years Beliveau expects "it will be close to the French market" as the "Spanish market is very dynamic, they do things like squid ring surimi."

Italy is next with 13,500 tons, and Italians love surimi, he said. The UK and Germany are lower with 10,000 tons each and Scandinavia consumes just 4,000 tons.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 10.40 a.m. PST

That's it?!?

With all the positive outlooks on surimi this year, perhaps it will change, but for now, there are just 8 surimi production facilities throughout North America, True World Group seafood processing division president Larry Mulvey said at the forum. This is down from 21 in the past.

Those facilities include Trident/Louis Kemp, Aquamar, Trans Ocean Products, Shining Ocean, King & Prince, LM Foods, Sugiyo USA and Ocean Foods in Canada.

Total US production is estimated at 206 million pounds, 2.5 million of that is exported to Canada and 3.5 million pounds is exported to Mexico.

About 40 million pounds of that goes to retail -- lower tonnage but higher value than foodservice, which is 95 million pounds and salad makers and re-processors, which is 60 million pounds.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 10.05 a.m. PST

The skinny on pollock, roe

Small, skinny fish are ideal for surimi, rather than fillets, and 2015 Alaska pollock were on the small size, said Maruha Nichiro's Mark JoHahnson.

Most producers are flexible and can quickly change between making surimi and making fillets, depending on market conditions, he added. Though it's all automated, fillet production is still more labor-intensive and costly than surimi production. Therefore, rising Alaska labor costs are causing shifts toward increased surimi production and the bottoming out of roe prices and demand are making the idea of surimi being just a roe industry byproduct a thing of the past, JoHahnson said.

"There may be an overweight on surimi inventory at the end of the year," he said.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 9.35 a.m. PST

What commodity will affect surimi the most?

Pacific Blends President John Wells discussed the various commodities that affect surimi -- from the "extremely volatile" sugar industry to the dropping corn industry to the oil industry, which has been marked to near historical low prices.

Wells also spoke of the various currencies, such as the falling US dollar and Japanese Yen to the increasing Euro, but he also spoke to IntraFishabout the one commodity he thinks will affect surimi the most.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 9.05 a.m. PST

Alaska pollock, hake quotas rise

Good news for surimi producers -- both Alaska pollock and Pacific hake total allowable catch (TAC) has increased heavily, NOAA's Steve Barbeaux said.

The 2016 TAC for pollock has gone up 30 percent from last year, to 257,872 tons and the TAC for hake is set for 497,500, up from 440,000 last year.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 8.40 a.m. PST

More groundfish good for surimi

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Center's Steve Barbeaux said there have been sweeping increases in Bering Sea groundfish populations, which is good for surimi producers.

From 2015 to this year, there's been "an overall increase in pollock from 2.85 million metric tons to 3.24 million metric tons," Barbeaux explained. "Really, the increase is in pollock, but we have increases across the board in all the groundfish species in the Bering Sea. It's something we're proud of."

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 8.20 a.m. PST

Different markets = different rules

Flavor company Takasago USA General Manager Brian Buck listed the challenges that surimi and flavor companies face today, namely, global regulations.

In addition to contending with rules in the US, such as the Food Modernization Act and Proposition 65, the more companies want to sell to other nations, "you're going to have all kinds of regulations you're going to have to contend with."

“So many different countries are coming up with their own ideas on how you’re going to make things safe and compliant and that makes it more difficult for us all," Buck said.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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Tuesday, April 12, 7.30 a.m. PST

All about surimi

About 110 surimi industry insiders from the world over are gathering in the waterfront Oregon town, right next to its border with Washington state, to discuss the product.

Big-named companies and organizations such as American Seafoods, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Nippon Suisan are on hand to discuss surimi at the event, which has long been organized by the "Surimi Man" himself, Oregon State University (OSU) Professor Jae Park.

-- Avani Nadkarni

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