We have been advised of strategic business plans by supermarkets as to how the retail sector will position itself within the next few years. In-house re-packing operations, such as those currently evidenced in supermarket meat, seafood and deli departments, will eventually be non -existent with retailers seeking to out source case-ready products offering extended shelf life, a greater choice, and a reduction in food-related health hazards. The health hazard issue is seen as a real concern within these supermarket departments.
As a leading seafood processor in Western Australia we have a need to position our company in readiness for this major change. Seafood is one of the last fresh protein items to be packaged in a MAP format for retail supermarket sale. Retailers have seen significant changes and growth in the presentation of red meat and poultry in the MAP format and are keen for seafood processors to develop the MAP technology. In the UK for example, since the mid 80's, 80% of case-ready seafood for retail supermarkets is presented in the MAP format.
MAP of seafood in Australia is still in its infancy and to our knowledge there are only 2 companies exploring the use of MAP technology for seafood. Whilst there has been some research on MAP for Australian seafood, little work has been done on WA species. There has been no evaluation of benefits of MAP against the costs, yet this is the fundamental for commercialisation of the technology.
There is also a need to develop bulk packs of seafood for the domestic and export markets. The use of this technology on fresh fish for the Singapore market in particular, can possibily open up new markets. Our company is currently exporting chilled fish such as Snapper, Threadfin Bream, Flag-fish, Blue Spot Emperor, and Swordfish to Singapore and we believe there may be potential to develop new markets if the shelf life is extended using the MAP format. We clearly need to evaluate what benefits can be achieved and what new products and markets can be developed. Furthermore, we have been working with a company in Sydney who has developed a new electronic marketing strategy for seafood by way of Internet Marketing and direct delivery to consumers and commercial accounts. (The company can be viewed on the Internet - www.greengrocer.com.au). We currently supply Greengrocer.com quality hand selected, dry filleted, individually wrapped fillets, which are specially processed and trimmed. This type of presentation commands a higher return.
We believe there is good potential for this type of premium product marketed by e-commerce if the shelf life can be extended to enable greater distribution throughout Australia.
The project focussed on determining initial fish quality for MAP process and initial chemical treatments to lower microbiological loads on raw materials used, the evaluation of various species in at least one gas mixture against controls and also to determine programs for further evaluation.