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Alaska Fish Factor: Alaska's Symphony of Seafood

Marketing Economics +2 more

US - Alaska's Symphony of Seafood will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year and the call is out for new entries to be introduced in the annual competition, writes Laine Welch.

The Symphony, hosted by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, showcases new Alaska seafood products in three categories: retail, food service and smoked. Top winners in each receive booth space at the international Boston Seafood Show in March. A unique and fun thing about the seafood contest is that it provides a level playing field with entries from major seafood companies and small Mom and Pop's.

"The expert judges don't have any idea who enters the products. They vote purely on taste, presentation and other criteria," said Jim Browning, AFDF executive director.

Between 15 to 20 new seafood items are usually entered into the annual competition. Fred West and his small, family run business of Tustamena Smoke House in Soldotna took home the 2012 grand prize for his Kylee's all natural Alaska salmon bacon, made from pinks and chums. Past winners include a wide range of innovative seafood items: cold smoked halibut, salmon chorizo, chowders and "ultimate" fish sticks. The 2013 seafood judging will take place in Seattle on February 13; all winners will be kept secret and announced at a gala tasting bash on February 23 in Anchorage. Deadline to enter the Symphony is January 16.

Dine out, Eat fish - Americans eat most of their seafood in restaurants, and trend watchers predict more offerings on menus next year. That's good news for Alaska, which provides more than half of all US caught seafood, and 90% of the wild salmon.

A poll by the National Restaurant Association asked its 2,000 members their calls on the hottest trends for 2013menus. Topping the list: locally sourced meats, seafood and produce.

Another top trend for restaurants is healthful kids' meals. Also popular are environmental sustainability as a culinary theme, gluten-free cuisine, using new cuts of meats and sustainable seafood.

When asked how to best handle the increasing cost of ingredients, one-third of the chefs said changing menus, one-quarter said adjusting plate composition, and another quarter said exploring new sourcing options.

Social media are trending at the dining table - 27 percent of the respondents ranked tablet computers, such as iPads, as the hottest technology trend in restaurants in 2013, 25 percent said Smartphone apps (25 percent), followed by mobile/wireless/pay-at-the-table at 19%.

Score one for Frankenfish - Genetically tweaked salmon just got one step closer to American dinner plates. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday released its environmental assessment of the "AquaAdvantage salmon" concluding that the fish "will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States." The FDA also said the fish, which grows three times faster than normal, is unlikely to harm populations of natural salmon.

If federal regulators clear the salmon, as expected, it would be the first scientifically altered animal approved for food anywhere in the world. No labeling will be required to alert human consumers that the salmon is not the real thing, as it is classified under 'veterinary medicine' and is therefore exempt.

The FDA will take comments from the public for 60 days before making it final.