By: Thomas Siebertz
The 2013 International Boston Seafood Show is finally underway! For those of you not familiar with it, it’s the largest seafood show in North America where industry, government and academia come together to exhibit new products, participate in educational seminars and network with people from around the globe. Each year, over 19,000 exhibitors from 100 countries meet up in one room to buy, sell, trade and network. It’s easily one of the most interesting and diverse trade shows I’ve ever been to.
From the moment I entered the door I felt the place alive with energy and buzzing with thousands of people. After fighting through a maze of people to get to registration and get my entrance badge, I finally made it to the exhibit room floor. I was greeted with an enormous inflatable fish hanging from the ceiling above the Yihe booth. It was early in the day but the floor was already packed. I made my way to my agency’s booth where I chatted with a few colleagues before diving into the sea of people wandering about.
Walking around the exhibit floor is amazing. There is a constant murmur of voices in the background, which is occasionally drowned out by a variety of foreign languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Indian and many, many others. The rows were lined with bright and colorful displays. The aroma of the many different seafood products filled the air. It was very easy to get lost, as there were thousands of different companies, each with their own booth.
Among the exhibitors were suppliers, manufacturers, food processing equipment companies, fish farmers, retailers, wholesalers, dealers, distributors, government agencies such as FDA and USDC and everything in between. Many businesses in the seafood industry look forward to the show as a way to drum up new business and also to meet face to face with clientele. It was great for me to meet people who I have previously only communicated with through email.
Needless to say, I was very busy today, but I did have time to try some great new products. The very first product I sampled was minced squid with salmon, followed by raw tuna and then grilled yellow tail flounder. There was also marinated salmon roe, which I’ve never had before but the golden pea-sized eggs looked too good to pass up. I was unsure what it would be like since I knew caviar was extremely salty. To my surprise, the flavor was mild and similar to a fresh piece of raw salmon. Among other products I sampled were grilled shrimp, crab cakes, fresh raw salmon, squid salad and even dried fish jerky.
I wandered around a bit more and found a big display highlighting US Farmed Catfish. In front of the display were an army chefs cooking up some delicious samples of southern fried Catfish. The breading on this product was light and crispy while the flesh was moist and tender. With a growing percentage of our seafood being sourced from other countries, it was refreshing to see a high quality US product.
Exploring further, I eventually wound up at the National Aquaculture Association booth where I met Dr. Jesse Trushenski. She is an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University and an expert on aquaculture. We discussed many facets of the aquaculture world including consumer acceptance, environmental impact and sustainability. It was so interesting talking to her that I will be sharing the full interview in a separate blog post.
Lastly, I joined my colleagues from the Seafood Inspection Program to attend a panel on Seafood Fraud and Mislabeling. The panel featured members of government, industry and media. The panelists discussed what their agency works on in relation to seafood mislabeling and how it affects the industry and consumers. It was an interesting discussion and of high importance in the seafood industry because it weakens the integrity of the industry. While I listened I was also scribbling notes of the discussion highlights that I intend to share in another post later this week.
It has been a tiring but adventurous day and even though I spent nine hours at the show I felt like I barely scratched the surface of what was there. The show continues for another 2 days but unfortunately I have to go back to work tomorrow. If you ever get the chance you should definitely attend! If you can’t make it this year you can check out the International Boston Seafood Show on Facebook or on Twitter @IBSS13.
Have you ever been to a food industry trade show? What was your experience like?