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Looking for the new hit fish? ‘Cobia has it all’

The culinary sector is building momentum around the fish, which will be on more and more menus in the near future, says farmer.

As demand for omega 3, fatty acids and healthy protein increases, the seafood industry is looking to match its current star -- salmon -- in acceptance, versatility, yield and value.

Panama cobia farmer Ocean Blue is introducing its fish to the European market with the support of chefs in the foodservice and retail sectors, and has also recently entered the smoked market.

In essence, it is borrowing some of the lessons learned from the salmon industry for promoting the benefits of fish, and playing with product forms that offer more value to operators and consumers.

“The product is so versatile, and it can grow to very big sizes, which allows you to sell it in different formats, not just whole-round and fillets like other whitefish species, and its omega-3 content is higher than that of salmon,” Remco de Waard, commercial director at Open Blue, told IntraFish.

The fish grows to a harvesting weight of around 6 kilograms, and has a firm texture that makes it suitable for culinary delicacies such as carpaccio, tartare or sushi.

“It is very easy to work with the fish, it has a meaty feel and chefs in Europe are accepting it very well,” de Waard said.

858b29c64daee550304eeef2725ca1fc Smoked cobia. Open Blue. Photo: IntraFish

The fish, found in the wild in tropical waters, is grown by the company in Panama under Aquaculture Stewardship Certification (ASC) standards.

It achieved accreditation in December 2017, something that has boosted sales in EU countries.

“The ASC stamp opens doors, especially in certain markets in Europe,” de Waard said.

As part of its effort to make the species “a global success,” Open Blue is broadening the reach of the product to more cities and to a greater range of restaurants.

“So far, the product has been sold in restaurants of an average expenditure for $30 (€24.40) to $35 (€28.40) per person. The idea is that soon it will be sold in restaurants for $25 (€20.30) per person, which spans a much wider audience,” de Waard said.

“Of course it is still a delicate product and is for high-end consumers, but it will be part of more menus, we will try to make the shift in some European cities.”

According to de Waard, the gastronomic culture in the United States is becoming more aware of the fish and its properties, and this trend will follow in Europe.

“We are seeing the sector is creating an interesting momentum for the fish, and I am sure we are going to witness a tremendous amount of traction around this product, it has everything to be a global success,” de Waard said.

In Germany, the farmer has signed a commercial deal with German salmon and trout smoker Wechsler Feinfisch. The product will be sold as smoked medallions by the company.

“The product is very good and it has potential, and the company is strong in marketing,” Felix Jansen, production manager at Wechsler Feinfisch said.

A 4-ounce portion of the fish provides 2,500 mg of omega-3s.

“It really has a lot of potential, and the taste is also not too fishy, which is very important for consumers wanting to eat more fish,” de Waard said.

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