Jeff Trujillo, of Ed's Kasilof Seafood in Kasilof, oversees a shipment of salmon being loaded into a FedEx truck last month prior to the fish being driven to the airport where it was flown to numerous locations in the Lower 48.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Summer is a busy season for Ed's Kasilof Seafoods, a family-owned and -operated processing firm that offers an array of gourmet seafood gift products, in addition to processing services for sport anglers on the Kenai Peninsula.
While custom processing for anglers comprises the bulk of mid-summer business, the company has also seen overall dramatic growth in sales of its fresh and frozen salmon, as well as a specialty cold-smoked lox.
"We've added 30 percent in sales over the last three years," said Jeff Trujillo, whose family operates the firm, adjacent to the Kasilof River and the sockeye salmon fishing grounds of Cook Inlet. "We've boosted our wholesale department, and online sales are up."
The company employs about 30 workers in summer months and 15 through winter.
Trujllo credits the company's success with the attention to quality control, "starting with good product to begin with, quality control and temperature control and experience."
His father, the late Ed Trujillo, started the business in the early 1970s, primarily as a processing plant. Since the elder Trujillo passed away in 1980, the company has switched to a value-added secondary processing facility and smokehouse.
"We added value-added out of need, because fish farming was just starting and the Japanese market crashed as soon as they found farmed fish worldwide," he said. "We went over there and saw changing markets and decided to come back and go into value added. We started doing custom processing for the sport industry."
Jeff Trujillo said his father learned how to do kippered salmon just for fun from a group of Russian commercial fishermen in Kasilof.
"Once we started value-adding and smoking, we went back to dad's backyard recipe, but now it is done in a commercial, computerized smoker," he said. "The secret is the technique, but it's not a big secret. We post it on the Internet."
Ed's Kasilof Seafoods mainly uses king salmon from several Alaska fisheries for its hot smoked, or kippered, products, because of the high oil content of kings. Ed's uses sockeye salmon mainly for its lox, or cold-smoked product.
The brine used for smoking is a combination of natural sea salt and brown sugar, with no nitrates added.
The company also uses alder wood in the smoking process, to bring out the flavor.
Bleeding and icing shortly after harvest has greatly improved the quality of the harvest across the board, he said.
Trujillo said that he loves seafood, and having a constant supply of seafood all year is a nice thing. He also likes the adventure aspect of the seafood industry, and the ever-changing aspects of the business.
"There is a quality assurance system around the state that has helped maintain more consistent quality standards," he said.
And with vacuum sealed and flash-frozen wild Alaska seafood available, the average consumer can buy year-round now and still get something that tastes fresh, he said.
"I like to work on the phone, because it keeps me in touch with the end user," Trujillo said. "I find it useful to take incoming calls, to interface with the customers, to find out what they like and don't like. I'm finding that over the years they have figured out the difference between wild and farmed, and they have become loyal to the wild salmon."
The company also offers seafood recipes on its Web site, www.kasilofseafoods.com.
Margaret Bauman is a reporter for the Alaska Journal of Commerce.
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