Follow along with IntraFish's live updates from the National Fisheries Institute's Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Orlando, Florida.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 11:20 am
Got milk? For now
Jim Mulhern of the National Milk Producers Federation doesn't look like a prize fighter, but when he joined the association, he saw an industry that had let the plant-based foods sector walk over it for too long.
"This is an issue we've been dealing with for the better part of 35 years," Mulhern said. "The problem is, we played nice. I decided not to play so nice and deploy a different strategy and raise visibility of the issue with consumers and legislators."
Penetration of plant-based dairy-free options remains low -- under 10 percent.
However, huge amounts of capital is flowing into dairy alternatives, while dairy companies -- two of the largest in the US just went bankrupt -- are struggling.
VC money and billionaire investors such as Jeff Bezos are marketing heavily, buying up shelf-space in stores and attacking a younger demographic more open to plant-based food.
"Should you be concerned? Yes. Is it going to be the death of the industry? No."
Mulhern said the key is lobbying and advocating the FDA to require labeling that plant-based products use terms like "imitation."
As is, FDA is not enforcing federal labeling guidelines that are on the books.
Mulhern expects that there will be some movement on the issue in the near future, which could have beneficial implications for seafood.
"It's a consumer deception issue. These products have every right to be in the marketplace, but call them what they are," he said.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 10:55 am
'I eat what I am'
Kelly Fechner with Datassential said now is the time for “healthy 4.0;" people used to say “you are what you eat.” Now the mantra is “I eat what I am," she said.
People want “hero foods” that are local, organic, and good for the environment.
So how does the healthy 4.0 approach, which is primarily based on personalization of food, intersect with seafood? Letting consumers hyper-localize a meal, describing the boat the fish came from, the way it was caught.
Fechner says there is a cycle to US restaurants adapting seafood to their menus.
“Cod, salmon and whitefish are all growing on menus,” she said. They are in a category where you can find them just about anywhere.
Lobster in particular is exploding at US restaurant chains in the form of sandwiches. There were 20 different chains with a lobster roll last year alone.
When it comes to main menus compared to pork, beef and chicken, in general, seafood doesn’t have as high a penetration as other proteins.
In fact, some seafood is coming off of menus.
Price points are fairly similar among seafood, vegan and vegetarian and plant-based options.
This could mean those other options are beating seafood out because they tell a better story and are also affordable, she said.
Where does cell-based fit in? Impossible Foods is now looking into production. It’s not commercial yet, but it’s also not an “if but when.”
The first products coming to markets are likely going to be for chicken.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 9:40 am
What could happen to shrimp?
Thursday, Jan. 23, 9:05 am
Shrimp making headway in US retail thanks to low prices
Shrimp sales at the retail level are growing about 9 percent per year, and households purchasing shrimp have increased significantly.
Tom Domino with Wakefern Food Corporation said shrimp is driving the shopping ticket for an average grocery shopper, with prices significantly lower than in previous years.
"As preferences change, seafood--shrimp in particular--is positioned for growth," he said. Shrimp is part of American consumers looking for healthy alternatives for protein.
Domino said fresh items, and seafood in particular, is a growing category at US retailers, as they become more competitive and consolidate to compete with online retail.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 9:05 am
Shrimp remains affordable
Mike Seidel with Performance Food Group said shrimp continues to play a large role in foodservice and retail, particularly with lobster and crab increasing in price.
Shrimp continues to be the affordable seafood for US consumers, he said. It currently sells at around $7.40 (€6.68) per pound at US retailers.
Shrimp still appeals to the "traditionalist" restaurant consumer, he said of that market.
In the past year shrimp sales in foodservice grew 6.1 percent, and is predicted to grow to 8 percent, he said.
The US southeast continues to be the dominate market for shrimp, with the biggest growth in sales in the Mountain Pacific region.
"White shrimp is king," he said in terms of shrimp sales by species. Brown shrimp continues to be in decline. "We have to keep an eye on that because it's declining pretty fast."
Thursday, Jan. 23, 8:50 am
Ecuador production also growing in China despite health bans
McIntosh said Ecuador could grow to producing 800,00 metric tons in the next few years, as farming methods continue to improve.
Ecuador is exporting significant product to China now, despite issues with health bans the country has imposed on five major companies in Ecuador related to disease.
McIntosh said the disease originated in China, but now "every pond in the world, (including Ecuador), probably has white spot."
Thursday, Jan. 23, 8:40 am
India remains dominant in shrimp
Looking at month-by-month US imports for top countries, India is continuing to dominate in the US market. Sree Atluri of Devi Seafoods said he doesn't think that trend will stop anytime soon.
"I don't see any surprises coming up here for the next 2-3 years," he said.
Atluri said farmed shrimp production in India is getting close to reaching 1 million metric tons, but that issues such as chronic diseases are still impacting the country's farming community.
"The production will continue with disease being present," he said.
Unlike China, India doesn't have domestic shrimp consumption, so most of the product is exported.
Around 40 percent of Indian shrimp goes to the US market, and around 28 percent of that product is headless and easy-peel shrimp.
India's production did not fall as anticipated, and showed for the first 8 months of 2019 a growth of 7 percent.
China is the biggest market for India after the United States, he said.
Thursday, Jan. 23, 8:30 am
Shrimp production on up and up for 2020
Travis Larkin, president of the Seafood Exchange, said the import trend in global shrimp production is that it could be up around 5 percent for this year. Others on the GSMC shrimp panel said it could be as high as 8 percent this year.
Robins McIntosh of Charoen Pokphand Foods said 60 percent of the world's shrimp is grown in India, Ecuador or Vietnam.
"Any major disruption in any of those three countries would be a significant blow to the world's shrimp supply," he said.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 3:49 pm
The markets are accepting snow crab prices
Keith Moores of FW Bryce said inventories are tight for snow crab, with landings in Alaska taking place this week.
“The category is behaving nicely,” he said. “It’s comfortable, in balance and certainly healthy.”
The markets have accepted the 2019, pricing, he said.
He doesn’t see major changes in demand, and Japan is buying a steady and stable supply.
In Alaska, snow crab quotas has increased 23 percent, with sizes likely to be small.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 3:30 pm
Lobster is in demand
Sheila Adams, VP of sales and marketing for Maine Coast, said there is an increased demand for processed lobster globally.
“Outside of America’s, we are seeing more demand for frozen lobsters," she said.
"As technology improves, the industry now has the ability to hold onto lobsters longer, which is opening up the markets and shifting demand."
She said she is bullish on the health of fishery too.
But trade was tariffs are causing impacts. “Our customers are price sensitive,” she said. They will shift.
Pricing for lobster tails and meats, it’s all time highs. Hurricane Dorian had a huge impact on product availability, which has affected prices.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2:55 pm
North America's stagnant salmon
North American farmed salmon production has not exactly been on a growth trajectory. In fact, it has been downright anemic compared to the rest of the world.
Last year, according to Kontali, production barely reached 170,000 metric tons of production.
Dial that back 15-20 years and production was 140,000 metric tons.
From regulations to health issues to political opposition, North American farmed salmon, while it has had a long foothold in British Columbia and Eastern Canada in particular, is not going to fill the growing demand for salmon in the domestic US market, which Kontali puts at 5 percent annually.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2:45 pm
Norway is at its salmon limit
Norway has a stronger willingness to grow farmed salmon production than it does the ability to do so, the CEO of a leading Norwegian seafood company told attendees at the Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC). Production based on what is allowed under the government licensing system is near its maximum.
At the same time, the harvest weights of the fish harvested in Norway are steadily decreasing. This is not market-driven, but the result of farming challenges such as sea lice, which leads to an early harvest of smaller fish.
Harvest weights have fallen from just over 5 pounds per fish in 2012 to around 4.5 pounds in 2019.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2:00 pm
A deep dive into sushi
The sushi market is growing globally, particularly among gateway countries to China such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Digging deeper into the data shows Atlantic salmon is becoming pricey in this growing sushi market.
Jeff Moulton, sales manager of Bakkafrost, said three companies and farms on the Faroe Islands are producing for a growing global market.
“We’re finding in global market, the demand is still outstripping supply,” he said. “We’re seeing unprecedented high prices. That speaks to the quality of the salmon, and that is going to continue, As we’re limited by fish overall, we’ll see increased demand."
RAS systems for sushi are however, not yet being considered to help meet that demand.
Kyle McNicolas with Culinary Collaborations said “we’re watching it, we’re not too invested at the moment.”
But as population grows, land-based farming is a concept that can help feed the future.
“At the moment, we are not buying any,” he said.
Moulton said Bakkafrost is not looking to invest in RAS anytime soon as they have a reliable ocean farming process.
“We’re not looking to move into that direction right now," he said.
Robert Bleu, president of True World Group, the trend of farm-raised species for sushi’s raw materials is increasing, and he expects that to continue.
McNicolas added sustainability however is an important issue for sushi and only growing for the category.
Another place where sushi is growing in the US is with kiosks.
Jason Yang of JFE franchising which operates SnowFox, said the company has seen great success in US markets making rolls specifically to fit a city's personality.
Despite sushi’s popularity, there are still no US sushi chains. In the US it’s more logistically challenging to create a national chain, Yang said. Much more than in other countries.
Where can consumers find sushi then? Bleu said the southeast is seeing more sushi operations. And data also shows big growth for sushi on a variety of US menus.
Don George, president of Anova USA, said now you can find sushi at all kinds of chains, including PF Chang’s.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 12:30 pm
Experimenting with Mickey
How do you expose customers to more seafood? Have them visit a hotel.
Michae Dunton, executive chef of JW Marriott Grande Lakes, said families are visiting for the Disney experience, something new.
“They’re willing to spend money to try something different like snapper,” he said.
The chef said there aren’t any specific proteins he has to adhere to using in the menu. After staples like beef and chicken, the appetizer menu is a great place to fill in with seafood options.
He said 48 percent of what Marriott purchases are seafood proteins.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 11:25 am
Don’t generalize on climate change
There was thankfully little denial that climate change would continue to impact the seafood sector during this morning’s panel.
However, speakers were careful to highlight the nuances of climate change and its affects.
Environmentalists need to understand that it’s not a one-size fits all solution and that just because one stock is affected, fishing in general cannot just be swept away wholesale. “Most food companies can adapt to climate change if they just put a little forward thinking into it,” said one panelist.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:50 am
You can’t teach passion
The seafood sector needs to hire people who are passionate about the industry was the message of ISEA Partners CEO Jeff Davis during this morning’s panel on what keeps seafood CEOs up at night.
“You need to find people with a passion for the seafood sector. If they have that, the rest can be taught,” said Davis.
Unfortunately finding those people can be challenging since the industry has generally done a poor job of educating the country on the prospects and opportunities in the sector.
“Most people have a very dim view of this sector,” said Davis, an opinion backed up by Clearwater’s Denise Avery-Reinhoudt.
Unlike in poultry and beef industries in the United States and the seafood sector in places such as Iceland and Norway, there has been little engagement with universities to ensure the skills needed in the sector are taught in the United States.
The change that needs to be made? Engagement, engagement, engagement.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:40 am
Superchilling technology could change everything
Evolving superchilling technology holds lots of promise for seafood suppliers, both from a cost perspective and product quality. The relatively new technology has been steadily growing in use.
The real advantage is you’ll be able to ship product with 25 percent less ice, thereby reducing the weight you are shipping by air and opening up more room on trucks being used for shipping, Jeff Davis, CEO, ISEA Partners, told those gathered at the Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC).
Superchilling technology is going to have a major impact on direct costs and on product quality, he said. “I think it’s going to be adopted not only in seafood but across other parts of the food industry.”
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:35 am
AI revolution is coming to seafood
“We’re on a cusp of a revolution in the way we’re going to process in the future,” said ISEA’s Jeff Davis of the coming AI wave.
"In the specific areas of seafood, the place we’re going to see opportunity is in the harvest and process side. Where we can better predict where resources at any given time, AI is going to give us all of that."
With the processing side, he said that same data will be there for vessels.
“If you have a process today running at 100 percent, it’s probably running at about 60 percent,” he said of what AI will reveal for the seafood industry. “It’s going to manage quality better, traceability, optimization, harvesting.”
The lead in technology will come from larger companies first. But we will see suppliers be able to bring that a smaller level eventually, he adds. It will have a similar path as computers — they started out as being available to a select few, and now we all have cell phones.
Wells Fargo’s Jana Dombrowski talked a recent experience she had with a produce company recently that was using 3D printing for ways to improve grocery appearance.
Frank Dulcich, CEO of Pacific Seafood said he sees AI advancements in packaging. “The greatest learning I do is walking the bigger and smaller grocery stores and just seeing what consumers are doing.”
The seafood industry is going to need to tap into this trend of consumers wanting more customization and personalization.
What happens to jobs when tech replaces them?
“I don’t think we’re going to lose jobs, but the workforce is going to change,” he said. More and more workers will be hired to create and manage these new innovations and technology, versus simply working on the factory floor.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:20 am
The big threat to seafood companies
One of the biggest disruptive forces in the seafood industry is the attraction of new talent into companies, many of which have a largely older workforce that is closer to retirement.
To prevent the threat of brain drain and the loss of experience that could result from the departure of long-term employees, companies are searching for younger workers.
The challenge, however, is that a tight US job market and government policies have driven up wages, which puts a strain on margins.
Additionally, younger workers such as millennials are not automatically attracted to the seafood industry.
"How do we get people interested in working in the seafood industry, especially women?" one panelist asked.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:15 am
Change from vertical integration
An all-star panel of Pacific Seafood Group CEO Frank Dulcich, Clearwater Seafoods Director of HR Center of Expertise at Clearwater Seafoods, Slade Gorton CEO Kim Gorton and Wells Fargo SVP Jana Dombrowski asked the question: what keeps seafood CEOs up at night?
Consolidation was at the top of the list, with ISEA Partner's Jeff Davis noting that the trend toward vertical integration will come with major benefits for the industry in the coming years.
"The obvious benefit is you see larger companies that can better invest in technologies that can be used to make companies more efficient," Davis said.
Seafood's biggest weakness historically has been its dependency on the whims of the supply side. The poultry sector's evolution is a road map for where the industry may go, Davis said.
"They became very creative, and that drove them to new product development," he said.
"If you just focus on the supply side, you're constantly adjusting to what people want, and you're not investing. You're more reactive."
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10:00 am
Millennials food spend undeterred by rising debt
Millennials were unsurprisingly a large focus (did we ever talk this much about any other generation?) of a US economic update by Wells Fargo. Apparently, despite rocketing student loan debt, the largest generation in the United States is still willing to spend money on eating out and food inside the home, with spending continuing to grow.
Within this, consumer spend on fish and seafood, while not likely to set the world on fire, has been remarkably steady, growing at 1.5 percent a year.
On a macro level, trade tariffs continue to cast a shadow over US economics. While the cost of the US-China trade war has dropped since the new trade deal last week, the best that can be said about the situation is that it is not getting worse, said the speaker. “There are still a lot of headwinds there.”
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 5:30 pm
Pollock has a great story to tell, but is anyone listening?
With cod prices increasing, can pollock gain a hold on the EU market? Rasmus Soerensen, executive vice president of sales for North America and Europe at American Seafoods said that appears to be the case. He said deep-skinnned and other premium versions of pollock are more and more appealing to a European seafood market over cod.
He also noted pollock, despite record catch levels predicted for 2020, is still having issues gaining prominence on US menus.
“Pollock really checks all the boxes that consumers are looking for nowadays," he said. The question remains though, how does the industry get that story to consumers?
Soerensen as well as John Shirley with Sysco agreed pollock is evolving in foodservice. It’s not just a fillet, it’s surimi, “it’s a great fish," Shirley said.
Soerensen said the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) group is helping spread that message to consumers, and the numbers should show improvements by next year.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 5:20 pm
Is the US about to lose its pangasius supply?
The biggest elephant in the pangasius room is the huge growth in Chinese imports from Vietnam, with the hungry market buying in 1,000 containers per month versus the 400 the US imports.
If this grows, then prices will be impacted for the entire market, a worrying trend in terms of market supply, but a welcome price increase for Vietnamese farmers who struggled to meet costs in 2019.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 5:05 pm
Turning around tilapia
Tilapia's growth story in the US market has been phenomenal, doubling in volumes since 2008, but a negative image spurred by news and social media stories has hit the species hard, with the US taking a decreasing share of Chinese production and the species showing declining market penetration.
But importers are confident that this is the bottom of the tilapia dip, with "really favorable" year-on-year retail sales growth in recent months.
This has been spurred, in part by a "rich" political environment pushing out room for negative clickbait stories on social media, which is seen as a big reason for consumption declines over the last several years.
"The challenge now is how we take this really great, healthy protein and prop it up and get beyond this perceived risk associated with the species," said one panelist.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 4:05 pm
Big data needed
The seafood industry could benefit from improving the amount of data it routinely has at its fingertips, according to speakers at the Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC). Because the US market is so dependent on imports, better data from supply sources around the world, particularly aquaculture operators, could greatly improve supply and pricing forecasting. Lot of pricing in seafood remains guesswork, said one speaker.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 3:05 pm
Seafood's big moment?
As much as no-one likes to hear about the growth of seafood’s traditional protein competitors, its current ups and downs deliver pertinent opportunities for seafood.
For seven years, the consumption of US beef, pork, chicken and turkey was flat at about 71 billion lbs according to a panel on seafood’s competing proteins. But in the last few years it has started to move up and is set to hit around 105 billion lbs next year, with the largest growth from pork. But African swine fever in China will likely have a big impact on this.
Production issues are also challenging the chicken industry, but the beef industry is about to set a new record at over 27.5 billion lbs, with record high prices – an interesting lesson in how to pair increasing supply with strong demand and inflation.
How does any of this impact seafood? Well, if one thing is clear it is that China is about to grow into an even bigger market for seafood, with growing consumer demand for protein and a decimated pork sector.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 3:00 pm
China will be critically short of their preferred animal protein, pork, in 2020, according to Len Steiner, an agriculture analyst speaking to attendees at the Global Seafood Marketing Conference.
The result of this demand is that China hog prices vs. a year ago are up 160 percent, EU prices, 45 percent and US prices 3 percent. But those higher prices, and the limited supply, consumers will need to find other options.
"One of the places they'll move is seafood," Steiner said. "I suspect we'll have a stronger market for fish."
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1:30 pm
Consumer spending remains strong
At least right now the American consumer is still spending strongly, suggesting that we are not likely heading into a recession, said a market analyst at the opening session of the the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC) 2020.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1:27 pm
Pacific Seafood's Dulcich steps up
Frank Dulcich, CEO of Pacific Seafoods, was named the 2020 chairman of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), at the trade group’s annual Global Seafood Market Conference (GSMC) in Orlando, Florida.
Todd Clark, vice president and partner of Endeavor Seafood, Inc., completed his term as 2019 as chairman of NFI.
In 2020, Clark will continue with NFI as past chairman while focusing on the group’s GSMC, a conference that he helped found in 2011.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1:25 pm
GMSC 2020 kicks off
The NFI's GSMC conference is underway, with a buzzing room as the plenary session kicks off. Given the recent crack-down on collusive behavior in the salmon and tuna industries in the US, this year's antitrust guidelines were given a humorous spin, with NFI President John Connelly capturing the audience's attention with a Godfather-inspired video. The message: it's for real. Don't talk prices.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 1:20 pm
Three days of news, views and networking
IntraFish is at GMSC 2020 in force, with Editor-in-Chief Drew Cherry, Executive Editor John Fiorillo, Editor Rachel Mutter and Reporter Rachel Sapin reporting live. If you've got news or tips, drop us a line at email@example.com, and make sure and follow us on Twitter: @intrafish