“Market conditions are pretty strong,” said Wink, in an early spring forecast. “We’ve seen pricing increase in the last year for sockeyes, [while] the price of farmed salmon has gone sideways.”
The amount of frozen sockeye exported from the US between January and October 2018 was equivalent to the previous year’s numbers, about 35,000 frozen tons, but the value increased by 22 percent.
“First of all, we are seeing the quality, particularly from the Bristol Bay fishery, improve year to year, so we are seeing less discount on lower quality product,” Wink said.
There is also strong market demand globally for wild and farmed salmon. China is importing more and more salmon, including farmed salmon to make sushi. Demand from the European markets remains strong, although not as much as China or the US.
“All the direct markets have done a fantastic job of cultivating the Alaska image, the Alaska brand,” said Wink, a former economist for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. “They associate Alaska with premium products. A lot of consumers will ask ‘do you have Alaska salmon?’ But there are five species and they come from all over the state, Alaska salmon, even though it has a strong, positive image, it is not a specific thing.”
“The benefit of marketing Bristol Bay sockeye is it is a specific product and we have large volumes, frozen H&G (headed and gutted), and frozen fillets, he said. “When you talk to retailors, they acknowledge that fresh, high quality salmon will sell itself. Customers come in during the summer and buy it, but they don’t know when the salmon run. They just know they can get salmon, but a lot of people want wild salmon. With frozen and refreshed salmon you can buy it all year.”
New wild salmon products are continuously being introduced to retail markets. Costco stores in Alaska now offer refreshed wild Alaska sockeye salmon fillets year-round, while Target sales Simply Balanced packages of ready to bake and eat wild caught Alaska sockeye salmon fillets and Pacific cod.
In early February, Costco stores in Anchorage, Alaska introduced Wild Alaska Salmon Corn Chowder from the Portland, Oregon-based company Fishpeople. Each box contains six 10-ounce pouches of chowder ready to heat, either by microwaving or in boiling water. Target stores in other states are selling one-pound packages of wild-caught Alaska sockeye by Marine Harvest, a producer of farmed salmon products based in Bergen, Norway.