13th March 2014: Austral gives Boston launch to retail packs of ‘Glacier 51’ MSC toothfish

March 13, 2014

Austral Fisheries is exhibiting its “Glacier 51” toothfish brand at the Boston seafood show next week, with retail portion packs set to be available after the start of the next fishing season.

The Australian fishing company, which Japanese giant Maruha Nichiro bought 50% of last year from Pescanova, launched its “Glacier 51” brand of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified toothfish products last May. The brand is named after the largest glacier found flowing on the south side of Heard Island, situated adjacent to the major fishing grounds for toothfish.

“We will have our own Glacier 51 stand within the Mark Foods stand this year, which is very exciting. At this time last year, branding our toothfish was just an idea,” Dylan Skinns, sales and marketing manager for Austral, told Undercurrent News. Mark Foods and the US division of Lee Fish, the New Zealand company, are its US distributors.

The Seafood Expo North America show in Boston, which runs from March 16-18, will be the public launch of the company’s toothfish portion retail packs, which are not yet available anywhere on the market and won’t be until after the next fishing season starts on April 15.

“There is potential, especially in the US, for this format to be more popular than the fillet. There is a massive portion market in the US, and I don’t believe there is an MSC-branded portion displaying the logo on the market,” said Skinns.
Glacier 51 toothfish fillets

“This will be a market first, and companies such as Whole Foods, who value MSC, will be high on the list of people to see given they are already buying our certified HGT [head-off, gutted, tail-off] trunks,” he said.

The Australian toothfish total allowable catch for 2014 is 2,730 metric tons green weight and Austral Fisheries share is 71%, which is 1,938t.

G51 will represent 18% of Austral’s sales in 2014 with a view to increase to 30% in 2015.

Initially the product was developed for the local Australian market, but the “power of branding” has opened up new markets, Skinns told Undercurrent.

Austral toothfish“The US is probably the hardest to crack but we are making serious in-roads now once they hear our brand story,” he said. “No other toothfish product on the market today can match our story, brand packaging and sustainability credentials.”

Toothfish still has the image that it is overfished in the US market, despite massive strides made on sustainability.

“There are many companies doing the right thing by the resource and it was time to put a stop to being the poor behavior of a few impacting on the extraordinary efforts of many,” said Skinns.

“Things have changed, with now 50% of all toothfish globally being certified as sustainable by the MSC, as well as over 60% rated as “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” by Seafood Watch,” he said.

Austral started with sales in foodservice but, due in part of consumer demand on social media, decided to come up with a retail portion product.

The company is already selling fillets for foodservice in Australia, the US and Asia, with some also ending up in retail. Austral will start up portion production after April 15, when the next season starts.

“Initially G51 was only designed for foodservice into five-star restaurants, but it also finds itself in retail, particularly in Hong Kong and the US.”Glacier 51 toothfish freezers

For the fillets, the company already has several customers in the US, with high-end restaurants such as Nobu57 in New York using G51, said Skinns.

“We are even exporting to Hawaii, but we won’t start supplying the retail portions until the new season starts,” he said.

“Three major airlines are poised to take on G51 in first and business class, which will create even further growth,” he said.

Consumers have reacted well to the brand, which led to the decision to design a retail pack, said Skinns. “We had so many requests on Facebook and Twitter from people who had eaten out that wanted to take some home and cook themselves or entertain others, so the natural progression was a retail pack.”

The company has seen strong sales growth in the first year and it plans to brand more of its toothfish after April 15.

“Given sales and demand in 2013, we have budgeted for 200,000 kilograms in 2014 and would not be surprised if we have to increase further after feedback from the Boston show,” said Skinns.

“We are also now building dedicated G51 retail freezers (see picture above) which really stand out in the shop. We will have one of these on display in Boston,” he said.

The G51 fillet product is selling already in high-end seafood retailers in the domestic market for pretty crazy prices, said Skinns.

Retail shops such as the David Jones Food Hall in Sydney are selling G51 for as high as $120/kg, he said. “This is some kind of record, but the clientele that visit this store don’t care about price but value taste, quality and an ocean-to-plate story.”