Fred West, left, and John Hollis prepare salmon sausage Thursday, May, 16, 2002, at Tustumena Smokehouse in Kasilof, Alaska. The company uses three different species of salmon to make several varieties of sausage.
AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, M. S
Midwest pork producers, look out. A pinker and leaner breakfast sausage will be hitting breakfast plates across the country in the next 45 days.
In an effort to appeal to consumers' healthier side and expand the reach of niche high-value salmon products, Fred West, president of Sea Products LLC has developed a salmon breakfast patty designed to taste similar to a regular pork sausage patty.
"We're going to blow Jimmy Dean out of the water," West said.
The sausage comes un-cooked ready to be formed and tossed in a frying pan. The difference is that it is made entirely of wild Alaska salmon and a secret blend of natural spices, he said.
All of Sea Products are made with completely natural ingredients and without preservatives.
West started his career smoking salmon in Westport, Wash. After visiting some friends in Alaska, he decided to sell his business and move north. It was there he started the Tustumena Smokehouse, the retail portion of Sea Products.
But, an adventurous soul with boundless energy and an insatiable appetite to try new things, West said he was infected with the idea to make sausage out of salmon. Retreating to his kitchen to start mixing and matching with John Hollis, his brother-in-law, he emerged with his first sausage product about six years ago.
"I just decided I wanted to try something different," he said. "So we started experimenting."
Since his first breakthrough, West has developed four different kinds of sausage the breakfast sausage being the latest.
Last year he retreated to his experimentation room full of spices, weights and measures to expend energy on the salmon sausage patties.
After making numerous versions and testing them out on his in-laws he decided on the Italian and Spicy Sage flavors for distribution.
Now he has embarked on a mission to expand the reach of all his products and show the country they can drop fatty, preservative-stuffed pork sausage dripping with grease from their diets and eat Omega-3 rich salmon sausage for breakfast.
It has not been an easy road bringing this product to the masses, he said. At first he said he had to beg distributors to taste his sausages.
"It was a tough sell and still is a tough sell," he said.
But the company has come a long way, he said. Still located on Tote Road south of Soldotna in a small wood building with moose antlers over the door and a fat husky named King lounging in the parking lot, West boasts his products are sold in 128 stores around the country from Washington to Ohio. New contracts soon will bring his products into six southern states from Florida to Texas.
Every day of production, his six-person team makes at least 500 pounds of sausage.
Among other places, they are sold in the Whole Foods Market chain and Fred Meyer. By the end of the summer, his goal is to have more than 1,000 retail outlets that carry an assortment of salmon sausage, he said.
"I think it's a great idea," said Jody Kensicki, seafood manager at Fred Meyer in Soldotna. Fred Meyer's Soldotna location offers the pepperoni and sausage links. She enjoys having an all-Alaska product offered at the store.
Kensicki said when she cooks with West's product, she puts it in eggs or uses it as a pizza topping.
While West is convinced that the new breakfast sausage will be his hottest seller, he has not stopped experimenting.
What's next? Wild Dogs a hot dog made of wild Alaska salmon are expected to hit the shelves this summer, he said. West said he is working with a Major League baseball team to sell Wild Dogs at the ballpark.
"I can just picture somebody ordering a pitcher of beer and some Wild Dogs," he said.
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