09/08/2005 - 22:00

Secret’s out on a seafood innovation

09/08/2005 - 22:00

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One of the most respected names in Western Australia’s seafood industry is creating a sea change in the retail fish market.

Secret’s out on a seafood innovation

One of the most respected names in Western Australia’s seafood industry is creating a sea change in the retail fish market.

Six months ago, Catalano's Seafood's Paul Catalano opened Seafood Secrets to bring an innovative approach to the fresh fish market with a bright, colourful retail outlet in Garden City.

Part of Mr Catalano’s point of difference is that Seafood Secrets has deliberately turned away from the ‘wet’ fish market – mountains of crushed ice displaying whole fish, oysters, mussels and various parts thereof.

Seafood Secrets sources its fish the same way the wet fish market does. It is what happens next that has some industry insiders calling the operation the most important retail initiative to hit the fish industry in recent years.

Using new chilling and freezing techniques, Seafood Secrets is trying to disconnect the association that wet fish is necessarily fresh fish.

Alongside chilled ‘fresh’ fish, the store also carries a range of frozen local fish.

Detailing the process of hygienically packaging seafood in sealed trays immediately after it is landed, Mr Catalano believes his techniques ensure food safety, quality and consistency for seafood consumers.

“The thing is, no-one freezes local fish down for retail, no-one,” he says. “People have this perception that it devalues seafood somehow, that once you freeze it you put it into a different market.”

The problem stems from the fact that the seafood industry is not using the Food Standards terms like ‘chilled’, instead using ‘fresh’ to mean ‘never frozen’, which is subjective and a source of ambiguity and confusion.

When one considers food as merchandise, as a commodity to be bought and sold, the understanding of ‘freshness’ is usually less than accurate. ‘Freshness’ is not a process – it has to do with age, quality and production methods, according to Mr Catalano.

The quality of Australian seafood is well established, but the consistency of this quality by the time it gets to the consumer is what Mr Catalano believes is the greatest challenge facing the industry at the moment.

“Supply is supply; it will always fluctuate in this industry,” he says.

“But quality is something different. Every time someone comes in to buy their salmon fillets, for example, it should be the same as it was the last time.

“It is about having product integrity from the boat to the plate.”

Mr Catalano believes that, unless industry practices change, the days are numbered for the wet fish sector, which he says is “still in development mode”.

“The industry will have a natural progression to this point but viability is its key factor,” he says.

And while admitting there will always be a market for wet fish shops, Mr Catalano says it is still early days for this latest venture.

The Catalano fish story started in 1969 with a small family-owned fish and chips shop. The business grew steadily into wholesale lines and now the company, one of WA’s premier fish suppliers, sells 60 tonnes of fish every week.

Markets in the hospitality industry as well as supermarket supply lines join air freight distribution to eastern states distributors and even select export markets.

Mr Catalano says Seafood Secrets’ growth into the retail sector has “always been about having the right product for the right market at the right time”.

“People are wanting to eat more fish. They are told by their doctors to eat more fish, but they don’t. Why?

“Because they want to be delivered the product without all the fuss, have all the information they need in full view, and buy with confidence,” he says.

“The first thing people say when the walk in is ‘Wow, there’s no smell’. For many, that is an impor-tant thing.”

For such an innovative concept to the seafood market, Mr Catalano admits the last few months have been like “R&D in motion”.

But with the business constantly adapting, adding features such as interactive displays, a free recipe index that can print out recipes, heat-and-run ready meals and even a near foolproof recipe guide matrix, Seafood Secrets definitely promises to see food differently.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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