Jan. 16, 11:15am EST

Why aren’t people eating seafood?

The top reason consumers don’t order seafood is a big hurdle to overcome: they don’t have a taste for it.

And that’s not just some consumers. Forty percent of Millenials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers all listed no taste for it as the reason for not eating fish.

Breaking it down, both Millenials and Gen X-ers – 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively – said they saw nothing appealing on the menu.

“They're looking at it, they’re reading the menu, and they’re saying, there’s nothing there, there’s not a flavor profile I like,” NPD Group’s Warren Solocheck said at the Global Seafood Market Conference. “There’s something operators need to do to make those products more appealing.”

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16, 10:48 am EST

How does the US foodservice sector break down?

The majority of the 3.2 billion servings of seafood annually is eaten at casual dining restaurants, 27 percent at midscale restaurants, 21 percent at quick service restaurants, and 11 percent at fine dining.

Among that breakdown, the picture doesn't look so great. Quick service visits are up 1 percent, and seafood servings are up 4 percent, but beyond that, the rest of the sector is glum.

Midscale traffic is down 2 percent, and a whopping 6 percent in seafood servings. In casual dining, traffic is down 1 percent, and seafood servings are flat.

Most troubling, said Warren Solocheck of the NPD Group, is that the fine dining category – where a lot of business meals occur -- is up 6 percent in traffic, but down 1 percent in seafood servings.

“We’re not seeing seafood growing there. That’s problematic,” Solocheck said. “That would be the place more people would be able to afford seafood.”

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16, 10:47 am EST

Lost your lunch

Lunch and dinner are the key occasions for seafood, but there hasn’t been growth in seafood sales during these periods in the past five years.

“That’s a problem,” Warren Solocheck of the NPD Group told attendees on the final day of the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Miami. Seafood has lost 460 million visits at lunch and 560 million visits at dinner.

--John Fiorillo


Jan 16, 10:45 am EST

The stepchild

The reality is seafood is often the department that is the stepchild, said Sherry Frey, Executive Vice President, Nielsen Perishables Group, told attendees on the final day of the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Miami.

But there are retailers doing a really good job training staff and merchandising, but much more needs to be done across the retail sector, she said.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 16, 10:25am EST

Bottom line: it’s good for you

Nielsen Perishables Group’s Sherry Frey had a simple message in closing her presentation at the conference:

“You own health,” Frey said. “We should be more aggressive.”

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 16, 10:06 am EST

Where do most people buy their seafood?

Of the total seafood category, some 86 percent purchase at major grocery chains, followed by 16 percent at club stores, 7 percent by mass merchandisers and 6 percent by supermarkets.

And believe it or not, 1 percent of seafood each year is bought in a convenience store or gas station. Who are these brave people?

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 16, 10:05 am EST

It’s not just Boomers who are eating seafood

Millenials, those consumers age 19 to 34, are very engaged with seafood. In fact, they are buying at rates similar to Boomers, those consumers age 46 to 64, long considered the best demographic for seafood.

Millenials are less likely to purchase premium seafood; tilapia is a favorite of theirs and is considered a good entry fish for them.

--John Fiorillo


Jan 16, 9:58 am EST

Who is buying your fish?

So who are you trying to reach? Nielsen knows.

In general, the seafood shopper lives in an affluent urban and suburban areas, and downscale urban areas. Fifty-six percent of the buyers are Caucasians, and many, dubbed “young transitionals” – have no children, and are under 35.

Oh yeah – they make a lot of money and are pretty smart: They pull in $75,000 in average household income and have a college degree.

However, by species consumers differ. Salmon shoppers tend to be “premium and super-premium consumers,” while catfish and tilapia are value-focused.

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16, 9:56 am EST

Find the ‘fresh enthusiasts’

What do shoppers who shop the perimeter of the store look like? Who are these consumers who are most concerned with fresh foods.

The tended to be health-conscious and affluent .

This is a really great opportunity to think of how you would package seafood meals with other items that these fresh enthusiasts buy such as  fruit, fresh breads, cheese and salads, said Sherry Frey, Executive Vice President, Nielsen Perishables Group, told attendees on the final day of the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Miami.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 16, 9:55 am EST

High-end whitefish sees some shuffling

Chilean seabass -- a high-end whitefish staple -- will see 70 percent of supplies certified to MSC in the near future. Sablefish could develop into a lower-prices alternative to Chilean seabass. Halibut and haddock pricing will be under pressure, while cod will see stable supplies.

Not enough change for you?

For tilapia, the headline is the shift in Ecuador from tilapia production to shrimp.

Depending on where EMS goes, some more may shift, Connelly said.

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16. 9:52 am EST

What about deli?

Of all the retail departments that were slammed during the depression, deli wasn't one of them.

“It’s growing because you’re seeing a lot of innovation, and it’s growing because consumers are looking for convenience,” Nielsen’s Frey said.

Deli sushi now boasts $578 million in annual sales. Over the past year, that’s up 7.3 percent in value, and 2.1 percent in volume. Seafood entrees, at $70.8 million in sales, are up 2.4 percent in value, and 1.6 in volume. Seafood salads took in $65.7 million in sales, up 2.6 percent in value and 1.7 percent by volume.

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16. 9:50 am EST

Your competition is not each other

What do people buy when the buy seafood?

Those who buy salmon, for example are frequently also buying deli items within their stores. When they buy salmon they also buy other seafood items, specifically tilapia, tuna and prepared finfish.

“Putting more seafood in the basket is a real opportunity,” said Sherry Frey, Executive Vice President Nielsen Perishables Group, told attendees on the final day of the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Miami.

“We really as an industry have to ban together to increase household penetration. We already know it is hard to get them to the case. Your competition is not each other. Your completion is the meat department, the deli department. It’s not each other,” she said.

--John Fiorillo


Jan 16. 9:48 am EST

Everybody's up (kind of)

It’s been a story of volume and dollar growth for almost all major seafood species in the most recent Nielsen data.

Fishfish, shrimp, surimi and crustacean dollar growth was all up, with crustaceans leading the way at 10 percent rise. Volume grew as well – 14 percent in the case of crustaceans. Finfish volume was up 6 percent.

The only loser? Poor mollusks. Their volumes dropped 1 percent (but dollar value grew 5 percent). Shrimp and surimi volumes were flat: no surprise there.

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16. 9:45 am EST

Foods that are selling best in the grocery store

Products growing the most in supermarkets are those with healthy attributes, those that offer convenience and are premium or indulgence foods, Sherry Frey, Executive Vice President Nielsen Perishables Group, told attendees on the final day of the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Miami. Foods that are multicultural or global in nature also are selling well.

I think the seafood department is really poised to take advantage of these areas of growth, she said.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 16, 9:40 am EST

Something's wrong with this picture

Only 55 million households are purchasing seafood, compared with 116 million in the meat department.

Meat department? 22.8 trips per household per year. Seafood? 4.6 trips.

Meat spend? $14.30 spent per trip. Seafood? $11.90 per trip.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 16, 9:36 am EST

Selling more seafood

Opportunities are out there for seafood retailers if they can do three things, Sherry Frey, Executive Vice President Nielsen Perishables Group, told attendees on the final day of the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference in Miami.

“The biggest opportunities in seafood is we need more consumers, and those consumers who do come to the case need to put more than one seafood into their basket and finally those consumers eating seafood need to eat more frequently,” she said.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 16, 9:29 am EST

More cod? Prove it

The takeaway on cod was that foodservice and retail buyers don't want to get burned again if the now-abundant fish sees supplies fall again.

"Am I really going to invest in cod if I don't know if this will be here long-term?" Connelly asked rhetorically.

"We have a challenge to prove this is a permanent rebound," Connelly said. "We need to be able to communicate that this product is here for a long time."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 16, 9:25 am EST

Banzino finds a following

National Fisheries Institute (NFI) President John Connelly summed up the picture for branzino, or European seabass, as positive.

North American diners are finding the fish on more and more menus and they are embracing it is a favorite seafood choice.

--John Fiorillo


Jan.16, 9:19 am EST

Shrimp: a 'sobering' picture

National Fisheries Institute (NFI) President John Connelly summed up the picture for farmed shrimp as "sobering."

"There was a lot of back and forth, and as most times in shrimp, people are going to be watching day-to-day and week to week," he said of the market. "And what will be driving that is EMS."

NFI and the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) met over the past few days to begin establishing a "comprehensive hypothesis" for how the industry might attack it.

"Right now we have lurched from solution to solution," Connelly. "The thought is to step back, analyze a lot of data."

Other trends will include less larger sizes, and growing demand in China.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 16, 9:18 am EST

Low price lobsters 'done'

For lobster, it's a return to normal, Connelly said in summation of the days' presentations.

Pries have stabilizing, and have return back to a level more consistent with what we have seen in the past.

"As consumers we have enjoyed very low lobster prices over the last several years," Connelly said.

That's coming to an end, he added.

In part, that will be a result of China

"China continues to see very significant homarus growth," Connelly said, and in reflection of government austerity, are turning away from higher-priced lobster to American lobster.

--Drew Cherry


Jan 16. 9:15 am EST

High-value shellfish in high demand

When it comes to higher value shellfish, China’s demand for mid-range shellfish is increasing, leading to a shift in markets for mussels in particular.

Shellfish markets are increasingly global, meaning more competition for higher-end shellfish.

The crabmeat supply is steady, but concerns continue over harvest rates in Asia and imports may continue to fall. Prices will reflect stable or down supply.

And when it comes to oysters, East Coast oysters resources are increasing rapidly.

When it comes to scallops, the US supply will be down another 10 percent in 2014 and the size range will be smaller. Harvest levels should recover, though, by 2015.

--John Fiorillo


Jan 16. 9:05 am EST

See you in Vegas

Next year’s NFI Global Seafood Market Conference will be in Las Vegas in late January. See you there.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 4:53 pm EST

US catfish market to stay tight

The high-value whitefish panel didn't have a catfish expert, but they found one in the audience.

An executive from one major catfish producer said the market will continue to tighten this year on flat supplies.

"We have a lot of head count in the ponds, but fish size is smaller than we'd like to carry through the winter," the exec said.

Prices began firming in the first half of 2013, and while they are off September 2011 highs, they are far above the levels 2009 through 2010, which saw prices under $3 per pound.

For this year, "prices are going to inch up for the farmer and the market," the executive said. "I don't see it changing a whole lot from that. The farmers are stubborn in the fact that they are going to keep prices where they are."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 4:42 pm EST

Mexico to the rescue

For fresh tilapia, the company to watch is Regal Springs, and the region to watch is Mexico.

"Mexico is going to be a major, major player moving forward, where they were not existent a year and a half ago," said Jim Bruffy of Regal Springs.

The company's operations in the Chiapas region of Mexico will be a major addition of supply into the US market.

For buyers, it comes at a good time. Ecuador's production has dropped off by two-thirds as farmers shifted to higher-value shrimp.

"We really don't know how far they will decline," Bruffy said of Ecuador. Costa Rica, too, is having trouble with fresh water, "but they'll come back."

Regal is "ramping up in Mexico as fast as feasibly possible," and is working hard to partner with communities in the same way they did in Honduras to get communities and workers on board.

Fresh tilapia imports dropped to around 23,000 metric tons last year, down slightly over the past five years, but relatively steady. Pricing, meanwhile, has moved up over the past nine months for both 3-5 and 7-9 sizes after a slight dip from September 2012 to March 2013.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 4:15 pm EST

'We don't eat squid, we eat calamari'

Calamari is found on a very wide range of US restaurant menus, but with the popularity of fried foods softening because of consumer health awareness, suppliers are searching for new ways to sell squid, according to panelists at a Wednesday session.

The good news is the squid supply and price in the US are stable.

Some new uses of squid beyond fried calamari include grilled squid and squid salads.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 4:15 pm EST

Haddock: Whitefish's problem child

Hold on to your hats: haddock will continue to be a tough business to be in again this year.

Haddock catches are projected to reach 278,000 metric tons according to Groundfish Forum data -- a 35 percent reduction from 2012.

The US -- a major user of haddock, particularly on the Eastern seaboard -- has had a harder time getting its hands on haddock. The supply was at an estimated 62,000 metric tons, down over 40 percent from 2011.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 4:10 pm EST

Quagmire Part II: Sablefish

Like halibut, sablefish is another species showing the odd mix of lower prices and no rise in volumes.

US dollar value (based on the yen prices paid in Japan) for sablefish dropped from a September 2011 high of around $11.50 per pound to around half of that two years later.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 4:06 pm EST

The halibut quagmire

Global halibut catch is now at nearly 150,000 metric tons -- a fairly steady amount. But the numbers belie a problem: a long-term decline in the production of Pacific halibut.

US halibut rose sharply from 2010 to a huge spike in early 2012, but demand dropped off as buyers turned away from the high numbers.

"That's an interesting story to be told," David said. "A decreasing amount of stock, and yet a decreasing price."

The 2014 quota for halibut will be announced Friday, which could alter the picture significantly.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 3:55 pm EST

Chilean seabass: A sustainability success story?

IUU fishing for Chilean seabass has been reduced dramatically from where it was just a few years ago. Of the 28,000 metric tons of harvest globally, only 1,240 metric tons are considered IUU today.

And of the harvest, nearly half is now certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard, and another 4,700 metric tons are under MSC assessment.

"Most fisheries have moved into the well-managed status," Eric Barratt said.

The problems aren't over, but they are far less rampant than they once were.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 3:03 pm EST

Oysters are everywhere

Oyster bars are a hot restaurant trend and new ones are opening every day.

More oysters are coming out of regions on the East Coast of the US as new states open waters to oyster farming.

That's good because ocean acidification is temporarily impacting west coast production.

The growth on the East Coast should help keep supply stable but the explosion of oyster popularity will mean prices will likely remain at current prices.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 2:47 pm EST

Snapper farming more dream than reality

Snapper farming is an exciting idea, and researchers are working hard to make it a success. But don't expect pricing help from an explosion in farmed production anytime soon.

"I'd say it's definitely in the distance," Santa Monica Seafood's Logan Kock said when asked about the latest developments.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 2:22 pm EST

End of the low priced lobster?

After big expansion of the market based on relatively low prices, lobster prices are returning to more average levels in 2014 and the days of the low-priced lobster could be coming to an end.

China is playing its part in changing the global lobster market. Its imports of spiny and North American lobster have risen from 2 million kilos in 2008 to an estimated 10 million kilos in 2013. China’s long-term appetite is changing the market.

Lower domestic prices for North American lobster has led to new product creation and helped expand the market beyond its traditional stronghold in the northeastern United States. It’s unclear how potential higher prices will impact the continued sales of new value-added lobster products.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 2:20 pm EST

Mahi surimi?

The surimi industry is always looking for new sources of surimi, and among the potential new options is...mahi?

Rapid fluctuations in the pricing have made it difficult for producers to get consistently profitable in the sector, and diversification has been one of the ways to combat the erratic markets.

Volumes aren't big, but production has been growing in the past few years.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 2:00 pm EST

Scallops prices expected to stay high

Changes in US domestic fishery this year will lead to approximately a 10 percent to 20 percent reduction in US landings.

Panelists at Wednesday’s high-value shellfish session said it is likely more size 20 – 30s will be available and less scallops in the 10-20 and U-10 sizes.

Meanwhile, Canadian scallop production is expected to increase 10 percent, and the reduction in US supply will help maintain prices, especially on larger sizes.

Despite the higher scallop prices of recent years, panelists say demand has remained stable.

The shortfall in US supply will make the US a competitive destination market, and imports will remain strong.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 1:50 pm EST

More Russian king crab

Lobster, scallops, king crab and oysters represent 3.4 percent of all US seafood volume harvested in 2012, but 13 percent of the value, meaning these are the high priced items in the seafood universe.

Overall demand for high-end shellfish has been very strong, and lobster and oysters are the species with the most volatility going into 2014, said panelists at the NFI session on high-value shellfish.

Russia supplies nearly 70 percent of king crab consumed in the US market; Alaska’s share of the market was roughly 12 percent in 2013. And look for increased product from Russia in 2014.

Look for weaker demand for larger size king crab in 2014.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 1:45 pm EST

Tuna is a bargain? Really?

When you think of tuna loins, you don't necessarily think "value" when compared with other seafood.

But statistics at the Global Seafood Market Conference tuna panel show and interesting trend.

One example: while yellowfin tuna prices spiked between 2011-2013, in the fall of 2012, prices began to fall precipitously. At around $5 per at the end of last year, 6 oz. CO-treated yellowfin tuna steaks were well below the average 6 oz. Atlantic salmon portion price of $6.

"As anybody attending the shrimp and salmon panels can see, it's not a rosy picture in terms of supply," Bumble Bee Foods' Mike Fairman said at the intro of the panel. "Tuna is now a value in comparison."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 11:37 am EST

A fine Chilean salmon?

Ask any oenophile what they think about Chilean wine, and they'll be able to name a long list of chateaus producing excellent, world-renowned wines. Could they do the same thing with salmon?

Eric Buckner, senior director of category management for seafood at Sysco, said consumers can be persuaded that different regions bring more value to a fish.

"In foodservice industry, there is different perceived value from different regions of the world, but heavily favored toward Chile in this country. But when you get to white tablecloths and the higher end, there is value placed on different regions," Buckner said. "It is a perceived value and a selling point."

You can glamorize a species, he noted.

"If you say 'I have Scottish salmon on the menu,' it gives a better perception than if you say, 'I have Atlantic salmon.'"

Multixport Foods General Manager Jason Paine said Chile could follow the great work Norway has done.

"I think there's definitely opportunities to promote it," Paine said.

Pacific Seafood Director of Operations in Chile, Gustavo Ross, noted that Chile's work in Brazil is an example of how it can work.

"We made a campaign to promote consumption of salmon, and it was fantastic," he noted.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 11:25 am EST

Brazil: America's salmon nemesis

America has shown it is willing to pay more for salmon. The challenge now is getting their hands on it.

"The consumption of salmon in Brazil will be phenomenal," Gustavo Ross of Pacific Seafood Group said.

Why spend so much time so far away when Brazil is so near?

"It's walking distance," Ross said. "It's very easy to get there. Today Brazil is getting the best fish, the biggest fish, the best quality."

He later clarified those comments: other countries aren't getting lower quality from Chile; Brazil is just by geography going to get higher quality since supply is just one day away from market. And what's more, "they're willing to pay more."

Jason Paine of MultiExport Foods agreed.

"These other countries are coming in and paying more for raw material. We're seeing competition," Paine said.

The Chilean government has seen the potential and they've put money into promoting the fish in the country, which has also helped tremendously.

"With Chile's complicated challenges, they'll be seeking best net return -- and that is not the US," Ross said. "Brazil has 220 million hungry people."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 11:25 am EST

Any new salmon production on the horizon?

Are there any new countries that show the promise to be producers of salmon of any note?

Salmon panelists say they are keeping an eye on Russia, but outside of that, don't expect a lot of newcomers, either from existing regions or nascent ones.

The US industry has room in the Northeast and Northwest -- Maine and Washington State in particular -- just not a lot of political will.

Panel moderator Gunnar Knapp, when addressing Alaska's opposition to salmon farming, indicated there could be some thawing even in the wild salmon stronghold.

"I think there is increasing realization that if you look at fish farming compared with other protein production and the environmental implications, fish farming begins to look favorable," he said. "The longer-term perspective -- this will take sustained work by the industry -- but this perception is going to change, and aquaculture will be viewed more favorably."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 10:59 am EST

Will Chile's growth continue?

When the discussion of global salmon demand and supply growth began, Pacific Seafood Group Director of Operations Gustavo Ross jumped in to say that the markets cannot expect the same flood of Atlantic salmon supply as it has in the past.

"No way," Ross said.

Over the last few years, the industry has grown dramatically, he noted.

"That meant a huge sanitary problem, and Chile made the same mistake as in 2008 -- it grew too quickly," Ross said.

The adjustment has been made, however; new sanitary regulations are working.

"The condition of the fish today is very healthy," Ross said. "Chile in the last two quarters has changed the trend, the results have improved."

All the husbandry discipline, however, will limit supply.

"It is going to be flat," Ross said.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 10:57 am EST

Sockeye's time has come

Lower volumes of sockeye salmon over the past few years has made it frustrating to secure product, but it's put the fish into a price range that is more on par with the quality of the product. From May through August, prices of frozen sockeye fillets were more than $7 per pound, while frozen H&G prices were at more than $4 per pound. Compare that with $6 per pound and $3 per pound last year. Wow.

"It's become a product that is a high-demand item, and it's recognized as being slightly different than a farmed salmon product," Trident Seafoods' John Garner said.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 15, 10:31 am EST

Snow crab stable

Snow crab was strong in retail in 2013, will it remain so in 2014?

Lower quotas in Alaska are coming. Canada supplies the bulk of the snow crab to the market, and quotas there are expected to remain stable.

And China’s consumption of snow crab is increasing and drawing product out of the US market.

For 2014, prices are expected to mirror 2013 and no surprises are expected.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 10:18 am EST

Plenty of room to grow

Quahog and surf clam harvesting in the United States has plenty of room to grow, and the industry will need to recruit new customers to take advantage of the quota it has available.

The industry has been harvesting about 65 percent of the total quota it is allowed to harvest, largely because there aren’t enough customers for its products.

The good news is the industry is equipped to harvest and process all of the quota.

Clam suppliers are finding some new customers in China and other countries and exports of its products are expected to play a larger role in the future of the US clam industry in the coming decade.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 10:05 am EST

Higher mussel prices here to stay?

In New Zealand there has been a significant consolidation in the mussel  industry from about seven companies a few years ago to three or four today. More volume is going to China and less to the United States.

Import costs into the US have climbed to about $3 a pound up from around $1.80 in 2007, largely because of a decline in production and increased purchasing from other countries.

It is unclear if these higher prices are the new normal.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 10:00 am EST

Live mussels flexing their imports

US imports of mussels have risen from about 45 million pounds in 2002 to nearly 70 million pounds in 2012, the bulk of these are coming from Canada.

Live mussels are accounting for a larger portion of these mussel imports.

Maine is working to make itself a larger player in the US market, with four new farms getting up and running and a shift to rope-grown technology.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 15, 8:00 am EST

NBA star shares advice with seafood execs

This week the Seafood Industry Research Fund (SIRF) held its inaugural benefit dinner at NOBU restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, coinciding with the NFI Global Seafood Market Conference.

SIRF Chairman Russ Mentzer described the event as a sea change moment for the organization. “SIRF has worked hard the past two years to raise our visibility and demonstrate our work as vital to the seafood community,” said Mentzer. “This dinner provided a chance for competing companies to literally come to table, learn about SIRF and significantly further SIRF’s ability to sponsor impactful seafood research.”

Attendees pledged close to $100,000 to support the Ethel Feigon and the recently established Richard E. Gutting Fund Memorial Funds.

In addition, SIRF honored Jack Kilgore of Rich Products for his lifetime contribution to the seafood industry. Guest speaker, former NBA All-Star and philanthropist Detlef Schrempf shared his thoughts about the need to work together as a team.  Schrempf is a member of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership board and borrowed from his days on the hardwood to draw parallels between the worlds of basketball and business.

SIRF was established in 1964 to fund research grants to colleges, universities and other institutions for research related to the seafood industry and the consumers of its products. SIRF is supported entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals and companies in and related to the seafood industry.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 5:12 pm EST

What about 2014?

So how much shrimp will be available in 2014?

The panelists largely agree there will be slight production increases  in Thailand, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

An optimistic view is a 150,000 ton production increase if the disease picture doesn't worsen.

Emerging middle classes across the world are changing the shrimp demand picture significantly.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 5:11 pm EST

Got to get it from somewhere

The overall feeling of panelists at the shrimp session is that there are more buyers of shrimp than the world is able to supply.

It is hoped that the supply shortfall can be corrected but there is no optimism this will happen in the near term.

The takeaway: shrimp prices will remain high and the competition for product will be fierce. Uncertainty is the name of the game.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 5:20 pm EST

Chinese tilapia finding new markets at home?

The US takes roughly 20 percent of the tilapia fillets coming out of China -- down from 26 percent in 2011 and 30 percent in 2012, respectively. Does that indicate more is staying at home?

Not necessarily. Chinese consumers see it as a fish people "buy and take home for their family," Elite Seafood's Jason Carter said at the Whitefish Panel at the Global Seafood Market Conference Tuesday, but there has been no breakthrough so far that will disrupt supply to the US market.

Tilapia is cheaper than carp and has less bones, and increasingly the middle class is seeing it as an option. An estimated 25-30 percent of tilapia produced stays home currently.

Production-wise, tilapia supplies will not see the massive growth it has over the past years.

"The rapid growth has ended," Whitefish Panel leader Todd Clark, of Endeavor Seafood, said. That's in part because it's no longer a no-name whitefish. "[Tilapia has] its own demand...it's lost its value positioning relative to cod."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 5:00 pm EST

Picking apart pangasius' price problem

Pangasius whole fish weight and harvests are both dropping, a result of production challenges, trouble with financing and a reduction in demand.

Once seen as the low-priced whitefish option, consumers seem to be veering away, leery of quality problems.

To combat low prices, you're seeing more corner-cutting to make margins. It's a vicious cycle.

"As a result, consumers are not liking that product, because of over-treatment and over-soaking," Quirch Foods Seafood Buyer Giancarlo Fanuele said.

The solution is simple, he said. "The price will go up once you start getting better quality fish."

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 4:52 pm EST

Mexican shrimp production slipping?

Mexico's shrimp production could be down as much as 50 percent when numbers are finalized for 2013, according to the Tuesday shrimp session.

Though not detected at the time, it is now believed EMS was in Mexico in 2011.

Sonora and Sinaloa account for more than 80 percent of production, but Sonora has been hit harder and is unlikely to recover. Sonora is expected to stock just 30 percent of its ponds this year.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 4:48 pm EST

The rise and fall of H&G pollock

The global headed and gutted (H&G) Alaska pollock supply has stabilized, to the relief of the whitefish market, but that doesn't mean there isn't change.

"This H&G is headed to various areas -- and new areas," Endeavor Seafood's Todd Clark said.

China still takes a dominant amount of H&G for reprocessing, but the amount used domestically in Russia, for example, is creeping up, and new areas -- most notably Africa -- are taking more.

That will change the market, as will the new drive to add value to H&G product from Russia, which now has the MSC stamp in its pocket.

But serious investment is required to make the shift to single-frozen production.

"When will the change happen? That's the question," whitefish panelist Merle Knapp of Glacier Fish asked.

"We have some good competitors out there [in Russia]," Knapp said. "It's going to be an interesting year to come, for sure."

For now, Russia will remain focused on H&G production, he said.

"Water's going to follow the path of least resistance," Knapp said.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 4:35 pm EST

EMS and India

Is the EMS bacteria in India? No one seems to know for sure, but panelists at the NFI shrimp session pointed out that the virus comes on slowly, almost unnoticeable.

In EMS impacted countries the onset of EMS is often seen when there is a spike in whitespot, as is occurring now in India.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 4:29 pm EST

EMS the evolving killer

The fact that EMS is a bacteria and not a virus as is white spot and other shrimp viruses is making it extremely hard to fight, according to a shrimp panel at NFI's conference.

Bacteria in EMS is evolving, now affecting low salinity ponds, which once were resistant to EMS.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 4:23 pm EST

Will China remain the king of cod processing?

Who could have predicted the volumes of cod on the world markets five years ago? Not many.

But the harvest of less than 800,000 metric tons in 2008 is projected to rise to 1.359 million this year -- a 69 percent climb.

"I haven't heard anything to suggest that volume is going to drop," Todd Clark of Endeavor Seafood said at the Whitefish Panel. "I think this resource is back to stay."

For now, that huge volume is going to H&G. Of the H&G volumes produced in 2012 -- some 700,000 metric tons globally -- China continues to be the king of processing.

Almost half of the global H&G processing -- 47 percent -- takes place in China.

Will they hang on to that role?

Frank Bodin of the Hadley Company notes that more Russian vessels are moving into sea-frozen fillets, and the rise in costs in China will naturally divert product back to where it is caught.

"I've always thought production will move back to the origin, but it will never move back in the way it was," Bodin said.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 4:15 pm EST

Can India keep rolling?

India has charged ahead to fill the void left by Thailand in the global shrimp market.

The country has boosted production and processing capacity.

Production is up to nearly 800 million pounds from around 200 million pounds in 2009.

India basically saved the global market in 2013 but the question is whether the country can continue. There is concern over increased disease, mostly white spot.

Additionally, there is an emerging broodstock shortage and slower growth rates in the ponds.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 3:56 pm EST

Ecuador uses a back door to China

Ecuador shrimp exports have more than doubled since 2005.

Unfortunately, more and more of its shrimp is not coming to the United States.

More of Ecuador's shrimp is going to China, often transshipped through Vietnam, and that is unlikely to change.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 3:45 pm EST

US loses control of shrimp market

Everyone assumed 2013 would be a white-knuckled year for shrimp and they were right.

White shrimp prices jumped by 30 percent in the second half of the year because of shortfalls largely related to Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS).

Through September, the US shrimp supply is down 4.4 percent, an improvement from the 7.6 percent decline in 2012.

More importantly, US buyers have lost the ability to control the global shrimp market as buyers from other nations are willing to pay more for what shrimp is available.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 2:05 pm EST

Pollock is the new cod, in name

The marketing of pollock is about to change after scientists agreed to change the scientific name from Theragra chalcogramma to Gadus chalcogrammus, commonly known as cod.

The decision to change the generic assignment stemmed from extensive genetic studies that examined the number of species and evolutionary relationships among the cods, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers James W. Orr and Duane E. Stevenson.

In all of the studies Walleye Pollock was "definitively placed in an evolutionary lineage that included the Pacific, Atlantic and Greenland cods.

The question now with it's new name and identification, is how pollock will be sold and marketed, as it remains, or by taking advantage of its new cod name.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 2:00 pm EST

Pity the salmon buyer

Remember that while the wild vs. farmed wars may be over, and the supply is flat, the two products have very different stories.

Depending on where you sit, those stories are either good or bad, but both have one thing in common: higher prices.

Wild sockeye salmon is indeed benefiting from an increased demand domestically for fillets such as sockeye, and in spite of high pink salmon harvests, demand is driving up prices for that species as well.

Farmed salmon, meanwhile, has been on an unbelievable run. Based on the latest available stats in 2013, prices for the fish spiked across fresh fillets, fresh H&G and (to a lesser extent) frozen fillets.

Fresh fillet import prices reached an average of $3.51 in 2012, and rose 29 percent to $4.53 per pound through the latest 2013 figures. Fresh H&G prices spiked from $2.56 per pound in 2012, to an average of $3.16 through the first nine months of 2013 -- a 23.4 percent rise.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 1:54 pm EST

Beef production stabilizing, poultry expanding

The drought situation in the United States, which has been hurting American beef production, may be coming to an end, Ryan Turner of Commodity Risk Management Consultant told attendees at the NFI Global Seafood Marketing Conference.

The expectation is now that beef production will begin to recover and stabilize in the coming years.

Ranchers are going to continue to see herd expansion and herd rebuilding in the cattle sector. The beef industry, in general, for the past 10 years has been horrible, but now some profitability is happening. The rebound will take a few years.

An expansion is also occurring in the poultry market. Prices for both proteins remain high. In US total meat consumption is expected to decline but consumption in China, Russia and Brazil are boosting consumption.

For the typical American, prices for beef are going to remain expensive. Poultry is likely to remain economical and the cheapest protein available.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 1:52 pm EST

Farmed salmon + wild salmon = shrug

US salmon consumption is stable -- and that's not good. Some 632 million pounds of salmon was consumed in 2012, but the figure is somewhat misleading -- it accounts for all salmon, wild and farmed.

Wild salmon's erratic seasons mean that Americans can see upwards of 342 million pounds of edible weight available to them (in 2005), then a short seven years later see 221 million pounds -- a 35 percent reduction.

But, the numbers over last year are brighter and in seafood, even small shifts are promising. Consumption was up 4.3 percent from 2011-2012, but that's driven largely by farmed salmon. Chile's recovery has helped Americans get back on the salmon bandwagon; 411 million pounds of farmed salmon were consumed in 2012. That a rise of 9.3 percent from 2005-2012.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 1:44 pm EST

US scallop consumption off

In 2012, US scallop consumption fell dramatically largely due to a sharp drop in imports.

Imports in 2012 fell to 34 million pounds from 56 million pounds in 2011. At the same time, domestic production fell from 29 million pounds in 2011 to 26 million pounds in 2012.

Imports, however, are expected to rebound strongly when 2013 numbers are finalized.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 1:42 pm EST

The shrimp roller-coaster

Well, we knew EMS was hitting the shrimp sector; we have some firmer figures from the GSMC.

Shrimp consumption in edible weight was at 1.18 million pounds - a sharp 9 percent drop from 2011, and a 3 percent lower figure than in 2004. Go find a seafood species (outside of tuna) that has seen that unsettling trend.

Things are not bound to get better anytime soon, particularly with erratic pricing that showed a spike of 19 percent in 2013 alone. Hard to keep consumers focused.

Over the past year, US import prices were up across every single category -- roughly in the 25-20 percent range.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 1:40 pm EST

Crab consumption sliding

US crab consumption has been in a long-term decline since 2007.

Consumption of all forms of crab has declined  from 204 million pounds in 2007 to 164 million pounds in 2012.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 1:40 pm EST

Tilapia, pangasius flatten out

When you look at the dramatic numbers for the "new" farmed fish species, it's important to add a number of caveats, American Seafoods' Ron Rogness warned.

About half of production is locally produced and harvested, so while production of tilapia is projected to reach 4.6 million metric tons in 2015, remember that not all of that is making it to global markets.

In fact, global markets appear to be reducing their rate of consumption of the whitefish.

Tilapia production grew by 35 percent between 2009-2012, but has climbed only 8 percent since then.

Pangasius, meanwhile, also saw a 35 percent increase in production between 2009-2012, but it has seen a subsequent fall of 22 percent, putting at the same level of production as in 2010.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 1:25 pm EST

Tuna's in trouble

It's no secret -- canned tuna needs a change. That's not just a US phenomenon, but a global one.

Still, US stats are a good canary in the coal mine. And that canary is coughing and wheezing.

Canned tuna consumption in the United States has fallen some 25 percent since 2004 in the United States, to a low of 751 million pounds.

I don't expect any surprises from the conference; there's no silver bullet to fix this. But clearly fresh ideas should be on the menu.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 1:20 pm EST

Rising prices

Price inflation is really hitting seafood consumption.

Ron Rogness at the opening session at the NFI Global Seafood Market conference said seafood inflation has outpaced overall food inflation. Consumer price index for seafood up 37 percent since 2004, outpacing other proteins.

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 14, 1:15 pm EST

Whitefish is king

Keeping the above figures in mind, even with the growth in salmon consumption over the past 10 years, Americans consume more whitefish than any other species -- thanks to pangasius and tilapia, but also due to the unexpected bump in cod consumption.

Consumption of tilapia in edible weight was at the top at 462 million pounds, followed by 365 million pounds for Alaska pollock. Pangasius consumption reached 225 million pounds in edible weight in 2012.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 14, 1:15 pm EST

Slow decline for America's favorites

Nearly all major seafood species showed a decline in consumption during the nine years between 2003-2012, but the extent was shocking when lined out by American Seafoods' Ron Rogness in his opening plenary on global seafood consumption.

Per capita shrimp sales, for example, fell by 5 percent over the period, but that is nothing compared with other species once considered staples.

Tuna consumption fell by 30 percent over the period, cod dropped by 19 percent, and salmon fell by 9 percent.

Who saw increases? No mystery: tilapia per capita consumption rose by 181 percent, while pangasius went from literally zero to 0.73 pounds per capita -- more than cod, catfish and crab.

--Drew Cherry


Jan. 13, 7:53pm EST

NFI chooses new chairman

Fortune Fish & Gourmet President & CEO Sean O’Scannlain is the new chairman of the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the group announced Monday evening.

A 22-year veteran of the industry, O’Scannlain has been a member of NFI since 2002. He’s served in a variety of executive positions, including Vice Chairman, Treasurer, and Chairman of FishPAC, the organization’s political action committee. 

In his new role as chairman, O’Scannlain will focus on seafood nutrition education, promoting domestic aquaculture opportunities, reducing seafood fraud, marketplace labeling and working closely with legislators and regulators on strategic seafood issues.

O’Scannlain has also identified aquaculture as a growing area of importance for NFI and its members. Promoting domestically-grown seafood will be a priority.

While welcoming O’Scannlain, NFI President John Connelly praised outgoing Chair Chris Lischewski, President and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, “Chris’ vision and leadership for the entire seafood community has been instrumental in so much of the positive change we’ve seen. We thank him for his service and continued commitment.”

--John Fiorillo


Jan. 13, 7:30pm EST

Pleasant weather and future leaders

Attendees to this year's National Fisheries Institute's (NFI) Global Seafood Market Conference in Miami are being greeted by plenty of sun and temperatures in the 80s.

This first day was largely dominated by various NFI council meetings, but ended with a reception for the trade group's Future Leaders class of 2013.

This year’s class gave more than 100,00 pounds of food and raised more than $20,000, said Gerrie Thomas, NFI’s director of Member Relations and staff lead for the Future Leaders program.

Future Leaders began in 1998 as a program designed to provide skills and experiences to emerging leaders in the seafood community. The class of 2014 will travel to Jacksonville, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Ketchikan, Alaska; and Washington, D.C. as part of their studies. The program has more than 250 alumni.

--John Fiorillo