Six Prince Edward Island seafood processors participated in the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Diego, California, in hopes of leaving their footprints in that marketplace.
With California’s population of 34 million, and an estimated 87,225 eating and drinking establishments, Esther Dockendorff, sales manager with PEI Mussel King, says the potential is huge.
The seafood trade mission ran from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, and included PEI Mussel King, By the Water Shellfish, Future Seafoods, Howard’s Cove Shellfish, Prince Edward Aqua Farms and Ocean Choice.
Prior to leaving for the show, Dockendorff talked about other activities that would make up the seven-day trip.
“The Winter Fancy Food Show just happens to be taking place while we are there, so they have offered a booth in the Canadian Pavilion for one day,” explained DockendorffShe noted there would be some matchmaking meetings for PEI processors with companies (buyers) who import in three major cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
“One of those companies moves out a million pounds a week,” stated Dockendorff and she added that the support from the Canadian embassy as well as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the PEI Business Development and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ACOA has been tremendous.
PEI Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Allan Campbell shares Dockendorff’s enthusiasm and noted that tapping into such a massive market would be “absolutely amazing.”
“We have some of the best seafood in the world in Atlantic Canada and with declining catches and the low US dollar, exploration and expansion of our markets is what is needed,” said Campbell.
All of the PEI companies do “some” business there already, Dockendorff said. “We have a new line of frozen product, so can move it by transport. With fresh product others may have to truck to Boston or New York and then look at flying (the product) into the West Coast cities.”
With the booth already secured at the food show, a chef, Alan Williams, from the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown was recruited to do presentations and work with a local chef at the food show as well as preparing seafood for the Canada reception.
These missions are not new to Williams, who has experience as a traveling chef. He came up with a menu that the PEI processors agreed on and in doing this he added some of his own seafood cooking ideas for coldwater shrimp, snow crab, frozen lobster, Atlantic crab, cod, perch, flounder, herring and mackerel. With such a wide array of spices, Williams was eager to share a few preparation secrets.
A sampling-style food show and reception gives Williams a chance to capitalize on using frozen PEI lobster in small portions. “I’ll just lightly warm it and add a touch of white wine, garlic and onion with some cream,” he said. “With oysters…well, there are two kinds of people who eat oysters. Those who will only eat it raw (on the shell) and those who want it cooked. So I’ll add a little citrus with herb vinaigrette to give it extra flavor and at the same time maintaining the sweet and salt of the oysters.”
Oyster fishermen Ted Boutilier of Future Seafood, Inc., in Lower Freetown, PEI, is eager to have his product showcased in one of the biggest market areas in the world. He believes this is an incredible opportunity for himself and other processors. “We have some of the best oysters in the world, bar none, and this is the chance of a lifetime,” said Boutilier.
He emphasizes that his oysters are grown naturally with nothing introduced to the water that isn’t already grown naturally. “The surrounding lands next to our aquaculture lease are owned by Island Nature Trust. We are very environmentally conscious and that will be an important factor in obtaining markets in California,” said Boutilier.
For Diane Farquharson, chief trade officer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Charlottetown these responses to the trade mission by Island processors and Chef Allan Williams is all good news. “We are expecting to develop new markets and increase sales of seafood and other agri-food products to the US,” said Farquharson in a telephone interview from San Diego.