Two new seafood programs have been created by the National Training Branch of the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency to help retailers identify degrees of quality in seafood and to help them make money selling it.
The Seafood Sensory Workshop will train seafood personnel to recognize varying degrees of quality in product through smell, sight and taste, then identify the degrees of quality using a new, common language for the different quality levels.
"This should have a big impact at the retail level," said Karla Ruzicka, deputy chief of the National Training Branch.
"One of the main issues with seafood in any consumer survey is inconsistent quality. Sensory will give people a 'unified lexicon' that will translate into purchase specifications and onsite inspection techniques for personnel that can be mutually understood throughout industry."
The second new program is for supermarket grand openings and is aimed at retailers planning to open a new store with fresh seafood, or to install or expand a fresh program in an existing store. National Training Branch trainers will work with store staff before the opening and, if needed, help work the opening and return for follow-up sessions.
The NTB was originally set up to train all USDC's seafood inspectors for the agency's Grade A or other voluntary seafood inspection programs. Five years ago, when the proliferation of fresh seafood programs in supermarkets created a gap in trained seafood staff, the NTB launched Seafood Splash. The three-day workshop offers retail personnel a crash course in seafood, from harvesting methods to in-store marketing strategies.
"Seafood is a unique product. It's not predictable like produce or farm-raised meat. When retailers are figuring out their advertising campaigns, the fish is still swimming," said Michael Bavota, an NTB training specialist. "Some retailers find out for the first time at our workshops that they shouldn't use markup as a way to price seafood. Usually, that's where a lot of shrink and profit loss occurs."
Since 1990, the NTB has trained more than 6,000 retailers, wholesalers, chefs, processors and other food and seafood industry personnel in five different programs on a fee-for- service basis in the United States and 14 other countries.
The success of Seafood Splash prompted NTB to take its show on the road in the form of programs tailored to the needs of a particular chain, or brought to a region to accommodate a group of independents. The programs can be one- or two-day workshops.
"We take students on tours, show them how seafood is processed. We bring in fresh seafood product so they can handle it, learn to identify quality and practice displaying it in the case," said Ruzicka.
The price for standard training programs is $395 per person. Tailored programs often have lower cost-per-student prices, Ruzicka said. For further information on any of the workshops, call the National Training Branch at (508) 281-9269.