Seafood Expo North America is the largest annual gathering of seafood professionals on the continent. This exposition just completed its three-day run in Boston in March, 2022. After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Expo provided the welcome opportunity for buyers and suppliers of seafood and seafood processing equipment to meet with customers, colleagues and new clients in person. It was much anticipated!
Thousands of importers, exporters, wholesalers, supermarket reps, restaurant professionals and foodservice companies participated in this huge seafood exposition. Almost everything smaller than a whale was on display, from shellfish and seaweed products to farm-raised and wild caught salmon, from caviar to catfish to cuttlefish. Halibut, cod, sea cucumber, sea urchins, shrimp, lobsters, geoducks - the choices were endless, tempting and tantalizing.
Five of us from The Popsie Fish Company, based in Homer, Alaska, set up our single booth and welcomed the attention it got, even among the multi-booths set up by others in the industry like Ocean Beauty, Selected Food & Beverage, and Fortune Fish & Gourmet.
We felt a sense of excitement as we talked up the bounty of seafood in Bristol Bay, and promoted our premium wild-caught Alaska sockeye salmon. We reconnected with business acquaintances, made in-person connections with previous phone customers, and networked with old and new customers from Alaska - and indeed, from all over the world. Enthusiastically welcoming new possibilities and relationships, we continue to grow our business as we find more opportunities not only in the United States, but also in Europe and beyond.
Just a few booths from our Popsie booth was that of our processing partner, E&E Seafoods. It was fun and beneficial for us all to reconnect in person, and rewarding to share mutually interested clients who stopped at both of our booths. Also nearby was the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a popular stopping spot for anyone seeking more contacts with those in Alaska’s burgeoning seafood industry. Alaska is famous for pioneering science-based, sustainable fisheries management practices, and is, in fact, the only state with sustainability written into its constitution. Our pristine, well-managed, wild-caught salmon were bragged about by Popsie’s potential customers before we even had a chance to!
The seafood industry is the largest private sector employer in Alaska. And most of Alaska’s 9000-plus fleet of commercial fishers and setnetters belong to multi-generational small family businesses.
Buyers interested in sustainable, wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon loved knowing that Popsie is a three-generational business, and that each summer members of our family return to our setnet sites on Bristol Bay and literally hand-pick, bleed and gently place our fresh-caught fish on a soft bed of slushy ice, to be transported literally only minutes and feet away to the Coffee Point Processing, where these prized fish are blast frozen. We call our fish “fresher than fresh” because flash freezing preserves the texture, taste and the freshness factor better than anything you can pick up in a store, which has probably been on display, thawed, for hours. You might want to read that sentence again. It’s an interesting fact that importers know and appreciate, but home cooks may just be discovering. Even that salmon you catch on the beach might sit in the cooler for quite some time before it reaches the campfire or dinner table.
Catching fish right on the beach and being responsible for it every step of the way until it reaches its final destination is our business. So many times at the Seafood Expo we heard potential clients say, “We love your story! It gives us and our customers confidence knowing that we can trace these healthy, wild salmon directly from your nets to our kitchens.” In fact, we believe we were the only actual fishers in the entire Expo of thousands of people!
As more consumers eat at home, easy-to-fix meals are increasingly in demand. Popsie fish can be popped out of the freezer, wrapped in a bit of tinfoil, sprinkled with spices, and cooked to perfection in a matter of minutes. And as health-conscious shoppers also look for more nutritious meals, seafood consumption has continued to increase. Wild-caught sockeye salmon are always right at the top of the list of any Googled requests for “healthiest main dishes” or “most nutritious meat.” In fact, eating salmon twice a week, as recommended by nutritionists, provides you with enough of those all-important omega-3 fatty acids for the week. Cod, halibut and sablefish, the other three fish that The Popsie Fish Company sells, are also favored by nutritionists for their high protein and low fat content.
We heard time and again at the Expo that quality is the number one interest of consumers who were asked what they look for when buying seafood. Seeing the pictures of our setnetters cleanly and efficiently harvesting our wild caught sockeye salmon, and knowing that our producers and packagers are following the most rigorous standards in the industry, potential customers showed great interest in pursuing a relationship with our mighty little company!
We were honored to participate in this huge event, and to meet with leaders and innovators in the seafood industry from all over the world. We shared the common interests of helping the earth become a healthier planet, helping its citizens participate in sustainable practices, and helping individuals increase their seafood consumption in their quest for living a healthier lifestyle.