Austral sees Whole Foods interest in Glacier 51-branded toothfish

May 8, 2014

G51 toothfish retail packsUS retail giant Whole Foods is showing interest in the “Glacier 51” brand of toothfish from Austral Fisheries, said David Carter, the Australian company’s CEO.

Austral, which is now 50% owned by Japan’s Maruha Nichiro, exhibited the eye-catching new brand at the Seafood Expo North America show in Boston and got much interest, including from Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods.

Retailers in Hong Kong are also interested, said Carter.

The toothfish season started on April 15, so there will be no fish available for the market for a while. September is when decent volumes will be available.

Austral initially targeted foodservice with the brand. “We wanted to target the trend setters and decision makers, the chefs who really care and get excited about the product.”

Glacier 51 is being used on menus, said Carter. “What is great about the story is there are so many elements the end user can tell. They can focus on the sustainability story, the drama of fishing in deepwater, or the biological interest of toothfish. When you tell a chef it has a 24% fat content, they get it!”

Carter said the ongoing crackdown on illegal toothfish fishing and more and more fisheries becoming Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified are two more strong positives for the species.

“A few years back, you searched online for toothfish and you got stories on overfishing. Now, you get recipe ideas from top chefs.”

Of the 17,000 metric tons of toothfish produced worldwide, a big chunk is now MSC-certified. The illegal catch has also been cut to an estimated 1,000t.

Carter said the Maruha Nichiro investment in Austral is paying off. Pescanova formerly owned 50% of the company.

“We have already done a bit of business selling icefish through the Maruha network. We are very happy and more of this will come. There will be more things we can sell through their network and visa versa,” he said.

Shin Tanabe, a Maruha Nichiro executive formerly with Maruha Nichiro-owned Westward Seafoods in the US, is now on the board of Austral and is based in the company’s office.

-taken from UnderCurrent news