West Coast Companies Compete at Seafood Expo North America

Smoked Black Cod Pâté. Photo: Whidbey Island Seafood and right, Kraken Stash IPA Beer Battered Wild Alaska Pollock Fillets. Photo: Trident Seafoods.

Pacific-side products advance through competitions for national recognition in a seafood smackdown.

West Coast seafood products will be well represented at this year’s Seafood Expo North America competition, taking place in Boston March 10-12.

Many of the region’s contenders earned their shot by winning first place in the annual Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition hosted at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle in November 2023.

Symphony of Seafood is a contest for commercial-ready products made from Alaska seafood.

“The significance of the Alaska Symphony of Seafood is that it showcases new, value-added products made from Alaska seafood,” said Julie Cisco, executive administrator of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), which organizes and promotes the competition.

According to AFDF, the latest entries were evaluated by a panel of chefs, writers, buyers and other industry experts. Scoring was based on product packaging and presentation, overall eating experience, price and potential for commercial success.

The first-place winners by category were:

Echo Falls Smoked Wild Alaskan Sockeye Nuggets. Photo: Ocean Beauty Seafoods.

Retail: Echo Falls Smoked Wild Alaskan Sockeye Nuggets by Ocean Beauty Seafoods

Seattle-based Ocean Beauty Seafood has been an industry mainstay since its founding in 1910. The company’s Echo Falls hot and cold smoked salmon product line sources salmon from Norway, Scotland and Alaska.

As the name suggests, the nuggets are made from wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. The bite-sized portions are honey cured and applewood smoked. The party-friendly snacks are sold in 3-ounce bags.

Food Service: Kraken Stash IPA Beer Battered Wild Alaska Pollock Fillets by Trident Seafoods

Trident Seafoods has a new, singularly Pacific Northwest-flavored product aimed at Seattle hockey fans. Their new Kraken Stash IPA Beer Battered Wild Alaska Pollock is coming to retailers soon, the company has said. The pollock fillets are beer battered with Kraken Stash IPA from Eugene, Ore.-based Hop Valley Brewing Co.

Trident Seafoods recommends enjoying its pollock fillets in fish tacos, dipped in a favorite tartar sauce, or served with potato chips and fries. Thawing is not recommended; they should be cooked from frozen in a conventional oven or air fryer.

Wild Fish & Sea Cucumber crunchies. Photo: Glacier Delights dba The Bear House.

Around the Plate: Alaska Seafood Crunchies – Wild Fish & Sea Cucumber by Glacier Delights dba The Bear House in Alaska

The Alaska Seafood Crunchies product line from Juneau, Alaska-based The Bear House are made from wild Alaskan seafood.

“Taste and texture perfect(ed) by 100-plus tests, 1,000-plus customers’ feedback and never-ending refinement,” The Bear House boasts on its website.

These crunchy snacks include the new, award-winning Wild Fish & Sea Cucumber Crunchies made from wild pollock and giant red sea cucumbers hand-picked by local divers. The seasonal morsels are best enjoyed on a salad, as a snack or in soups, The Bear House has said. When in stock, they are available online.

Alaskan Salmon Chips. Photo: Polkadog.

Beyond the Plate: Polkadog Alaskan Salmon Chips by Polkadog

Polkadog was founded in 2002 by Rob Van Sickle and Deb Suchman to feed their one-eyed dog, Pearl, top-notch snacks. The company now offers many high quality dog treats made with all-natural ingredients ranging from cod skins to clams and chicken to haddock.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a dinner plate or a doggy bowl, when you’re feeding family, quality matters,” Polkadog states on its website. “That’s why we only use 100% all-natural ingredients from right here in the USA. Single and limited ingredient, always. No additives or preservatives, ever.”

Although Polkadog is based on the Boston Fish Pier, its new Alaskan Salmon Chips are 100% wild caught Alaskan salmon, which qualified them to compete in the Alaska Symphony of Seafood.

Seattle People’s Choice (Special Award):
Whidbey Island Seafood – Smoked Black Cod Pâté

Whidbey Island Seafood company was started by fishermen brothers Andrew and Adam Hosmer and their friend Devin Parrick. They own Seabolt’s Smokehouse on Whidbey Island and already produce a line of salmon and tuna pâtés in addition to other seafood products and smoking services.

Their new award-winning black cod pâté, buoyed by the fish’s popularity in Japan, has been a success.

“The best part is we are able to use backbone scrapings to make the pâté, which allows for another 5% recovery of the fish,” Adam Hosmer said. “Plus there are very few smoked black cod dips out there.”

According to Whidbey Island Seafood, their black cod is harvested using long-line pots from the r/v Baranof in the Bering Sea. The pâté is rooted in a decades-old, community favorite recipe with a velvety texture, rich smokey notes and no preservatives.

Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon Breakfast Sausage. Photo: E&E Foods.

Bristol Bay Choice (Special Award):
Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon Breakfast Sausage by E&E Foods

Renton, Wash.-based E&E Seafoods was founded in 1932 with a focus on Alaska and North Pacific seafood – salmon, cod, pollock, and halibut. E&E is also known for its salmon caviar.

The company’s wild Alaska sockeye breakfast sausage patties was awarded special recognition by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA). These cooked-from-frozen, 2-ounce patties can be fried up and served with a side of toast and a cup of coffee or thrown into a breakfast sandwich just like traditional sausage patties.

High Impact, High Stakes 

“Sometimes the winners are small companies and we can help them get to Boston and get more exposure,” said Cisco. “That in turn hopefully results in higher demand and sales. Along with our partners at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, we are always looking for ways to drive demand for Alaska seafood!”

Hosmer agreed regarding exposure for small businesses.

“I think these seafood competitions are great for smaller, direct-to-consumer companies like ourselves,” he said.

An additional, final batch of Alaska Symphony of Seafood winners are expected to be announced Feb. 21 at a joint legislative reception cohosted by AFDF and United Fishermen of Alaska.

The outstanding categories include the Grand Prize, Juneau’s People’s Choice, Salmon Choice, Whitefish Choice, Best Packaging and Best Grab & Go. Second and third places for the categories of Retail, Food service, Around the Plate and Beyond the Plate are also to be announced. These winners will join the seafood smackdown in Boston.

“We’re looking forward to networking, getting our brand out there as we also have a few other new products coming down the line that use black cod which we are very excited about,” Hosmer said.

Getting a pulse on the industry during these turbulent times makes this iteration of Seafood Expo North America an important event.

“We are interested in feeling out what the industry is thinking for 2024 and 2025,” Hosmer remarked. “The seafood industry has been hit hard since Q4 of 2023 with steady declines in consumer demand month after month domestically and then getting our butts kicked in global markets … so it’ll be important expo for a lot of the industry.”  

Norris Comer is a Seattle-based writer and author. His debut memoir, Salmon in the Seine: Alaskan Memories of Life, Death, & Everything In-Between is now available wherever books are sold. You can find him on Substack, Instagram and at norriscomer.com. He can be reached via email at norriscomer@substack.com.