Views from Alaska: Q&A in harmony

Alaska’s Symphony of Seafood gives competitors a market edge

New products can mean new customers, improved utilization and increased value for the entire seafood industry. In Alaska, we celebrate innovations in product development through an annual event called the Alaska Symphony of Seafood. The Symphony is a competition for new commercial-ready products made from Alaska seafood. Each product entered in the competition is grouped into one of four categories: Retail, Foodservice, Beyond the Plate and Beyond the Egg. The winners receive booth space and airfare to the Seafood Expo North America and are entered into the expo’s new products contest, along with many other benefits.
August Issue 2019 Cover

This story was first published in the August issue of National Fisherman. Subscribe today for digital and print access.

As we prepare for the 27th annual Symphony, we hear from two past winners, Alaskan Leader Seafoods and Barnacle Foods, how the Symphony benefited their brands.

What products did you enter?
Alaskan Leader Seafoods: We entered Alaskan Cod with Lemon Herb Butter and won Best in Retail and the Grand Prize.
Barnacle Foods: We entered our Campfire Kelp Salsa and were selected as the Juneau People’s Choice.
How did the Symphony help you market an innovative product?
AL: Winning the award spotlighted our company in several articles and radio interviews. Many retailers are always looking for a popular and sustainable product to showcase in their seafood departments, so the Symphony put us on the map in several regions.
BF: The Symphony introduced us to several new customers and was great exposure for our brand and the mission of Barnacle Foods. Our product was the first ever kelp product in the competition, so it was also an honor to win and bring attention to the developing mariculture industry in Alaska.
What was the most important aspect of the series of Symphony events?
AL: The most important aspect of the event was how fair it was. No one had an upper hand, no one out-muscled the little guy; it was straight-up fair and square. It gives little companies a fighting chance in this demanding and competitive marketplace.
BF: The receptions in Seattle and Juneau were great opportunities to connect with customers and other Alaska seafood companies. There is a lot of expertise in the industry, and many lessons to be learned from innovations in other sectors of the seafood industry. Seafood Expo North American in Boston was the highlight of participating. Thousands of seafood industry participants from around the world sampled our product. We received invaluable feedback and built connections around the country and world.
What effects do you think the Symphony had?
AL: The most visible impact was how much social media grabbed onto our product and spread the word. Also, by winning, you automatically were granted an entry to the international new product competition at SENA. That’s a big deal because you are now competing with the world’s best. Just ask the winner of last year what happened to them. They got overwhelmed with new business.
BF: The Symphony helped us launch our product line, gained our business recognition, and helped us develop relationships with many brands and seafood industry groups. Being at the Boston show exposed us to the magnitude of the seafood trade and identified which markets will make the most sense for our company to pursue in the future.
What would future Symphony entrants want to know?
AL: I encourage all companies that are using Alaska seafood to develop a product and compete. It keeps all of us striving to be better and promote Alaska seafood as the world’s best on the world stage!
BF: Participating in the Symphony helps gain perspective on how vast the worldwide seafood market is. It will help your brand realize that you’re a small fish in a big sea, and that there’s a lot of space to grow. Seafood is global, and the industry participants are well connected with one another. It helped our company begin to open doors.
The 2019-20 Symphony call for products is open. If your company has a commercial-ready product made from Alaska seafood, or you sell to a company that does, we want to hear from you! Visit www.afdf.org.

About the author

Julie Decker

Julie Decker is the executive director of the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation. Her family owns and operates a small commercial fishing vessel out of Wrangell, Alaska.

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