Consumers are becoming more creative and adventurous with their cooking and seafood is riding a new wave of popularity. Retailers and fisheries are now finding innovative ways to meet the demand for accessible and affordable seafood products.
“There has definitely been a mindset shift where consumers are looking for new and different products, either fresh or pre-packaged, from their local retailer or supplier to try at home,” says Dean Stacey, Atlantis Foods Group Sales and Procurement Director.
One such example is a recently launched fish sausage range in South Africa: hake sausage, trout sausage and haddock cheese sausage. The release of this never-seen-before product caused a ripple on social media as some voiced their astonishment and others marvelled at this meat alternative. Some pescatarians even praised it as a delicious and surprising alternative to soy.
Cape Town chef, restaurant owner and WWF-SASSI Trailblazer 2020, Judi Fourie echoes this change in how people consume seafood. “People want to experience new flavours when it comes to seafood,” she says. “Going to a local restaurant and trying something for the first time satisfies their curiosity.”
According to Fourie, South Africans are “crazy about trying new seafood dishes, and at my deli, they purchase whole fish and ask for recipes to try at home.”
There’s been a definite shift in interest for seafood products, adds Stacey. “Between the demand for meat alternatives and the consumer’s new-found love for experimenting in the kitchen, retailers and fisheries are thinking out the box to produce innovative new products like ready-made seafood meals to meet the demand,” he says. “Today’s trends might be tomorrow’s ‘new normal’ so working with Atlantis Seafood Products, the third-largest fresh and frozen fish processing factory in South Africa which specialises in unique seafood products for South Africa’s largest retailers, has been a big focus in our post-COVID reality.”
The financial implications on households due to the pandemic may well be another driver behind consumers experimenting in the kitchen. “People have generally become more frugal – and they need their money to stretch,” says Imtiyaaz Hart, Tastemaster SA finalist and chef-in-training at La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek.
“They are enjoying cooking at home instead of eating out; they would rather make a seafood potjie or braai a snoek in the comfort of their own home.”
Hart has a few tips for cooking seafood at home. “Never overpower it with too many flavours and always maintain its integrity. La Petite Ferme head chef, Odette Olivier, taught me to respect seafood products and their delicate flavours.”
Chef Frikkie Janse van Rensburg from Penhill Farm in the Nuy Valley in Worcester agrees. “Simple is key. No big flavours that overpower the flavour of the fish. Also, a quick cooking time. You don’t want guests sitting with Dunlop-tyre prawns or hake biltong,” he jokes. “If you make a fish curry, for example, you should still be able to taste the fish and not just the curry.”
Has seafood become sexier and more appealing for South Africans? “We have the most stunning local seafood, while having the luxury of imported sustainable produce, which wasn’t on our local supermarket shelves before,” Chef Judi says. “Seafood is definitely sexy, celebratory, and healthy, and it has that opulent feel to it. Seafood is sexy because the ingredients themselves don’t need dressing up to be showstoppers.”
Whether a daily consumer, a professional chef or a self-proclaimed ‘lockdown chef’, food has brought comfort and conversation around the table, and seafood is playing its part in a new, modern and sexy way!