Chilean coho salmon producers are crossing their fingers for another strong autumn sales season in the United States, although the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and a generally weaker market could complicate matters.
In recent years, sales have been helped by US consumers gradually becoming familiar with farmed coho, with some preferring it over other salmonid species because of its distinctive color and a reputation for the reduced use of antibiotics or pharmaceuticals in its production.
In recent years Salmones Aysen has shipped around 600 metric tons of fresh and frozen D-Trim format salmon to the United States but is looking to increase that total this year.
"We have seen a slowdown in volumes due to aggressive Atlantic prices, a situation that challenges us to be creative and aggressive in pursuing the US coho market," Salmones Aysen's director of Operations Jose Domingo Baraona told IntraFish.
The executive sees the company's standing as a dedicated coho salmon producer as an advantage in the market.
"I think Alaska's difficult wild salmon season created some opportunities for coho to take a stand, and my impression is that once consumers experience our coho they fall in love with it."
BluGlacier is aiming to match 2019 sales of its Silverside brand coho as it gears up for the third annual autumn launch of its fresh premium line.
The 50/50 joint venture between Blumar and Ventisqueros is making available around one million pounds mainly of fillets, although it also sells in headed and gutted, as well as whole fish formats.
While the fresh lines launch will follow the end of the wild salmon season and be available from October to December, the company's frozen coho lines are available all year round in the US market.
In a weaker market this year, amid fallout from the coronavirus pandemic that battered the foodservice sector, the company may struggle to beat last year's sales.
All the same BluGlacier CEO Sebastian Goycoolea has not given up, with the retail side of the business still performing well and foodservice business returning to around 70 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels despite recent spikes in cases.
"If we can do the same volume we did last year it will be good."
Historically, coho business has been targeted more toward the Japanese market but US sales have been increasing in recent years.
"We are promoting and want to make it available for more and more people every year," Goycoolea said.
At the start of the year BluGlacier hired Evelyn Torres as its chief marketing officer.
Torres joined from Deloitte, having previously burnished her marketing credentials at Nielsen and Anheuser-Busch.
This year will be her season of promoting fresh coho, as she leads efforts to raise the brand’s presence in North America from the company's US headquarters in Miami.
The 2019 coho salmon harvest in Chile was reported at 176,400 metric tons, 28 percent higher than the previous year, meaning producers may have their work cut out to beat or even match that total.
Despite a high number of coho salmon being placed in cages it is very difficult to estimate the coho harvest this season, especially given the amount placed in cages in July is unknown, Baraona said.
"However with the background we have to date we believe that the harvest will be diminished between 10 percent to 15 percent and this number could continue to vary depending on the harvest weights of each of the companies."
Camanchaca successfully debuted its coho salmon in the United States last year, quickly building a customer base and is looking to bring frozen and value lines to US store shelves.
"We had a good first year last year and are looking to build on that," Cesar Lago, president at the company's US office said.