Salmon isn't a traditional ingredient in Hispanic dishes or pizza toppings. However, if two of the winners at this year's Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition have their way, it will be.
Fred West was the Rocky Balboa of value-added seafood products at the annual competition's awards reception in Anchorage earlier this month. His homegrown Fred West Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon brand, based in Soldotna, placed in two categories against stiff competition from corporate entries with far greater resources, like the grand prize winner, Ocean Beauty, which operates facilities in Nikiski and Seward.
"We were up against some big boys," West said. "We're talking multimillion-dollar companies."
West's salmon pepperoni placed third in the retail category, while his salmon sausage placed second among smoked products.
"I couldn't believe we won two awards," West said. "That was unreal."
The main ingredient in his products is pink salmon, however, he mixes in sockeye, also called red salmon, to naturally redden the pepperoni and sausage, which gives them a more traditional appearance. He adds no pork or beef, preservatives or artificial colors or flavors.
"It's made from 100 percent wild Alaska salmon," he said.
Entries in the Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition are judged on price and marketability, in addition to taste. West thinks he's developed some tasty products, but he also credits their success to the marketing firm he recently hired. Horizon Marketing, based in Seattle, designed packaging and a marketing plan for West's endeavor.
"One thing I've learned is appearance means a lot in sales," he said. "Hiring them was one of the best investments I ever made."
The marketing firm's contributions have helped West place his salmon sausage and pepperoni in large chain stores up and down the West Coast, from Larry's and Tacoma Boys in Washington to Whole Foods in Oregon and California. His products also are available at Fred Meyer, and he currently is in negotiation with Safeway-Carrs, he said.
West isn't the only processor on the Kenai Peninsula making sausage out of salmon. Ocean Beauty, one of the "big boys" of seafood processing, offers a salmon sausage with a south-of-the-boarder twist that turned more than a few Alaska Symphony of Seafoods judges' heads. The company's salmon chorizo was the competition's top vote-getter and grand prize winner for 2004.
Chorizo is a spicy sausage traditionally made with pork and is a popular ingredient in a variety of Hispanic dishes.
Like West's sausage, Ocean Beauty's chorizo is made primarily from pink salmon.
Ocean Beauty developed the sausage as one way to incorporate the "large inventory" of wild pink salmon into more product, according to Mark Palmer, vice president of sales and marketing.
There's also a substantial market for chorizo.
Palmer compared the way Hispanic Americans use chorizo to the way a lot of Americans use ground beef.
"It's a staple," he said. "It's used at breakfast, lunch and dinner."
For now, Ocean Beauty is concentrating on marketing its salmon chorizo in regions with large Hispanic populations, such as Southern California, Texas and the Southwest.
"There are millions and millions of pounds (of chorizo) sold in these markets we've targeted," Palmer said.
The Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition is sponsored by the Anchorage-based Alaska Fisheries Foundation. Judging takes place at a gala in Chicago, Ill., where a panel of six to 12 chefs and seafood buyers judge the entries in three categories: food service, retail and smoked products.
Entries are limited to value-added products made from seafoods from Alaska that have gone on the market within the past three years. The entry out of the three categories that receives the most votes overall is awarded the grand prize.
The awards reception is held in Anchorage.
Alaska Symphony of Seafood
Grand prize winner
Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Seattle
First place: Salmon Chorizo, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Seattle
Second place: Alaskan Salmon Burger, Trident Seafoods Corp., Seattle
Third place: Fred West Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Pepperoni, Sea Products, LLC, Soldotna
First place: Smoke Salmon Chile Cheesecake, T&L Smokehouse, Juneau
Second place: Fred West Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Sausage, Sea Products, LLC, Soldotna
Third place: Smoked Alaskan Salsa Salmon, Alaskan Salsa Salmon, LLC, Anchorage
First place: Cioppino with Alaska Cod, Orca Bay Foods, Seattle
Second place: Santa Fe Cod Strips, American Pride Seafoods, New Bedford, Mass.
Third place: Sealegs Brand Seafood Crab Cakes, Trident Seafoods Corporation, Seattle
Anchorage Gala: Sealegs Brand Seafood Crab Cakes, Trident Seafoods Corporation, Seattle
Chicago Gala: Cioppino with Alaska Cod, Orca Bay Foods, Seattle
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