As the saying goes, when one door closes another one opens and that is certainly true as the 2018 food convention season shifts into high gear.  As Expo West in Anaheim ended, the doors to the 2018 Seafood Expo North America (SENA#18) annual convention opened in Boston, MA on Sunday, March 11.  

SENA is the premier seafood buying event in North America with over 1,300 seafood vendors vying for the attention of the nearly 26,000 seafood product and services buyers from leading retail, restaurants, foodservice and processing channels seeking innovative new products. Overlying themes of innovation observed at the show focused on sustainability, convenience, authenticity, and health benefits. 

Fishing for Success in the Meal Kit Market 

The explosive meal kit market continues to satisfy customers, excite consumer brands and retailers, and meet the goals of savvy investors. In recent events, Albertsons Companies made a powerplay by acquiring kit pioneer Plated in late 2017 while earlier this month Walmart announced their plans to expand their meal kit program to 2,000 stores this year. With all major retailers developing strategies for their own lines of meal kits and one-step-meal solutions, seafood brands are looking for ways to ride this wave to their own profitable results. This is no longer a trend but a new normal product category that is meeting the needs of time-crunched consumers who are looking for an outstanding eating experience that is convenient, wholesome, delicious, and at a great value.  

Iceland’s Best Masago Bites 

Newcomers, Iceland’s Best, was awarded Best New Retail Product 2018 for their fresh and delicate Masago Bites. The beautifully packaged meal starter kit comes complete with the highest quality Masago (capelin roe), a delectable salmon mousse, and rye crackers. Consumers can create simple recipes by adding Skyr or Greek yoghurt to the included products and serving with simple garnishes upon rye toasts. Company representatives said that they are excited to introduce their cuisine to America in a format that is truly, authentically Nordic. The masago bites aim to achieve the company’s quest to make healthy food social by featuring a unique texture and mouthfeel experience of creamy mouse and a tangy, explosive pop of roe. 

Cozy Harbor Lobster Tonight Chef’s Kit for 2 

With a 38-year history of walking the wharfs in Portland, ME, Cozy Harbor Seafood knows a lot about lobster. What their legacy of success has taught them is that diversifying their product portfolio and opening new markets is critical to staying relevant to their customers.  Their newest launch, Lobster Tonight Chef’s Kit for 2, contains everything you need to make an elegant lobster dinner in less than twenty minutes. The product line offers three platforms, Lobster Sliders, Lobster Neapolitan, and Lobster Alfredo complete with vacuum-packed premium lobster meat, a carbohydrate carrier and easy-to-follow instructions. 

Cedar Bay Sous Chef Kits 

Cedar Bay Grilling Company, who has long been known for their seasoned cedar plank salmon fillets, is now upping their game with a full line of seafood inspired meal kits that promise to deliver two premium restaurant-style dinners in just twenty minutes.  Cedar Bay aims to bring authentic Vietnamese flavors in their two Pho Bowl concepts complete with rice noodles, vegetable mix, broth and choice of either Atlantic salmon or shrimp. 

Protein is a label claim that every modern product developer is seeking to boost.  All daypart eating occasions are packing protein into a variety of platforms and the SENA Expo unveiled a variety of high-protein products.  

Acme Fish Corp Poke Bowls 

Acme Fish Corp offers two varieties of Smoked Fish Poke Bowls, smoked salmon and smoked ahi-tuna, under their Blue Hill Bay brand banner. These Hawaiian-style meals-in-a-bowl come complete with smoked fish, poke sauce, and a spicy seasoning topper are conveniently ready in just two minutes. Busy consumers who are looking for an easy grab-and-go dish will also enjoy benefits of healthy satiety with 20 grams of protein at a modest 360 calories. 

Handy Shrimp and Salmon Power Burgers and Bites 

Handy Seafood attracted the attention of the SENA best new products judges with their marketing of shrimp and salmon Power Foods. With 12 grams of protein their collection of hand-made burgers and bites feature seafood and a blend of “superfoods” such as edamame, spinach, broccoli, herbs, and chia seeds in a low-calorie product. While this is an innovation for the marketplace, Director of Culinary Development, Barton Dewing explained that the concept was a modernization of a formula that had been in their archives for years. “We really needed to revitalize a contemporary ancient grain cake with new ideas.” One of these new ideas was replacing the traditional mayonnaise binder with a more innovative edamame puree. 

Swimming Against the Current

There is a lot of talk about disruptive brands with disruptive products who are aiming to turn whole categories on their heads. Unlike the explosive disruptions that have occurred in other categories, seafood is a relative newbie in terms of radical change, until now. At SENA we experienced true out of the box (or out of the can as the case may be) developments that are leading to more exciting deli counters and more inventive snack aisles.  

Chicken of the Sea Tuna Slices 

Chicken of the Sea Foodservice won the 2018 SENA Seafood Excellence Award for Best New Foodservice product with their category changing Yellowfin Tuna Slices. Marketed as the “uncanny tuna” these slices provide deli operators an alternative to land-animal based deli meats. The slices are vacuumed packed and ready to eat, high in protein and Omega-3’s, and perfect for sandwiches, wraps and salads. Yellowfin Tuna slices are cut from whole loin of Yellowfin Tuna and are available in two flavors: Cajun or Black Pepper. 

MacKnight Salmon Crackle

Whether called pork rinds, chicharron or cracklings, these resurrected old-time snacks are showing up more frequently on menus and in retailers nationwide.  MacKnight, Ltd. saw the opportunity to offer a better-for-you variation on the crackling with their new Salmon Crackle. They start with bite sized, premium Atlantic salmon skins that are gently cold smoked before cooking in coconut oil for a crisp snack that delivers Omega 3s, 12g of protein per serving, and no trans-fats. The company unapologetically positions the product as “remarkable crackle that is produced in small batches and is available in limited supply- but that is what you might expect for a product that is probably the best snack in the world!”

More inspiring seafood innovation can be seen at the Seafood Expo Global Event taking place April 24-26, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium and at next year’s Seafood Expo North America event March 17-19, 2019 in Boston.

Gerrie Bouchard, MBA, CRC, is founder of Culinary Contents, a culinary strategy and product development firm in Philadelphia. A Certified Research Chef, Gerrie Bouchard has more than 20 years of experience in the food industry and started in 2005 as a research chef with Eatem Foods, a division of Archer Daniels Midland Company. She has experience working with major CPG and national foodservice. She also has worked with natural products companies such as LoveTheWild, category-changing frozen seafood company that is deducted to sustainable aquaculture, through a critical operations scale-up. 

Learn more about Bouchard and Culinary Contents at Readers also may reach her at or by calling 856.628.1735.