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Photo courtesy of Norwegian Seafood Council Top Species Farmed Salmon From farm to plate, every fsh tells a story By Joanne Friedrick W hile wild salmon may evoke images of the great outdoors, its farmed cousin has become equally adept at telling its own tale. Increasingly, farmed salmon is building a following through branding or by relying on its country of origin to create a positive marketing message. Verlasso, which produces salmon in Patagonia, Chile, through a venture with 28 SeaFood Business May 2013 AquaChile, spent 2012 focusing on building distribution, says Director Scott Nichols, and this year the company is working on its retailer relationships. Verlasso recently placed its salmon in Central Market in Texas and it has also introduced smoked salmon under a joint venture with Acme Smoked Fish Corp. of Brooklyn, N.Y. Te smoked product is sold under Acme's Blue Hill Bay label and is just now coming onto the market. Verlasso likes to tell the story of how its salmon is raised, and uses gill tags with QR codes — two per fllet — so both the retailer or restaurateur and the customer can connect with the fsh. Tere is a short interview with the farm manager that can be accessed from the tag, says Nichols. "All salmon is red and dead," Nichols explains, "so we have to do the communication. People really do get that how your food is raised matters and who your farmer is also matters." Verlasso's goal has been to reduce its reliance on feeder fsh by changing the way it feeds its salmon, says Nichols. It uses a 1:1 ratio, replacing fsh oil and fshmeal obtained from feeder fsh with omega-3 rich yeast. Te company has worked with chefs to share this information and is now targeting retailers. Nichols says it's important to expand the brand. "We can't meet sustainability needs if we stay a niche product," he says. Skuna Bay, based in Vancouver, Canada, is another brand in a growth mode. David Mergle, director at Skuna Bay, says after starting in one market in November 2011, the brand is now distributed in 30 states to about 800 chefs. While the salmon had been farmed for years, it wasn't until recently that the Skuna Bay brand was created and the farming and marketing program tweaked, says Mergle. "Our farmers didn't have a direct pipeline to the customer," he says. In developing the brand, they have also made improvements by reducing both the density and the fsh in/fsh out ratio. Tey also harvest in small batches to reduce the stress and fatigue on the fsh, which tightened the processing window. Brands are vying for position as the farmed salmon market heats up. Fish that get the Skuna Bay label go through a 14-point selection process, he says, which includes checking factors such as scale loss, frmness and eye clarity. Distributors aren't allowed to open the boxes, he says; only chefs in their kitchens. "When we talked with our customers, traceability came up quite a bit," says Mergle. "Tis gives chefs a connection on the back end." Mergle says about 95 percent of the salmon — Skuna Bay produces 30,000 pounds a week — goes to restaurants. It is positioned as a premium product, but Mergle says as commodity salmon prices have risen by $1.40 recently, "we've only taken an additional 25 cents, so our value is getting better and better." Plans are to expand in the Pacifc Northwest by flling gaps there, and possibly additional expansion into Texas and the Southeast. Skuna Bay only ships by ground, says Mergle, so they are somewhat limited in distribution reach. Know your fsh While Verlasso and Skuna Bay have devised their own methods for tracing fsh, Cory Dellinger, strategic contracting manager-seafood for Avendra, is working with about 35 to 40 regional seafood distributors to ensure that restaurants and retailers are getting what they are ordering. Avendra specializes in procurement, assisting companies with supply chain management and cost control. Avendra is able to determine if fsh is properly labeled through random DNA testing on samples of all species. Its quality assurance teams Visit us online at www.seafoodbusiness.com