Researchers to Explore Market and Innovate with Pollock Roe

Salmon roe on rice. Robert S. Donovan / Flickr
Salmon roe on rice. Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Researchers in Kodiak want to open up new markets and expand existing ones for a popular fish product. This delicacy is what you might imagine people at cocktail parties eating over stock market discussions. It’s also good with tortilla chips.

We’re talking about roe, fish eggs which in Alaska come from species like salmon, herring, and Pollock.

Roe produced in the United States is especially popular in East Asian markets according to statistics from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and the Kodiak researchers write in their project proposal that the majority of Pollock roe goes to Japan and South Korea. Now, they hope to market alternative forms of Pollock roe to East Asian countries, including China, Japan, and South Korea.

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The two researchers from the University of Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences have just secured funding and will now gather data and brainstorm ideas.

Chris Sannito, a Seafood Technology Specialist, says pollock roe can be a tricky food.

“I would say it’s kind of mild tasting in the raw state, but once it’s cooked, it develops sort of a metallic flavor, so not very desireable.”

Which is why it’ll take experimentation to develop product forms that flatter pollock roe’s flavor profile. And with roe value declining across all markets, it might be a good time for some more innovation.

A report from NOAA Fisheries says pollock roe value is at a historic low. Yet, it still brings in a high profit.

According to the same report, the average price of Pollock roe was a little more than $6 dollars per kilo in 2014, while the second most expensive product, pollock fillets, cost about half as much at $3.30 per kilo.

Sannito and his research partner, Quentin Fong, write in their proposal that they want to cater to tastes in East Asian countries. They plan to come up with possible products and do consumer studies. However, first comes a lot of brainstorming, research, and consultation.

Sannito says nothing is off the table.

“We’re gonna look at a lot of different ways to use pollock roe. I mean, there’s already in development people looking at salad dressings with pollock roe. In Japan, a very popular way to eat pollock roe is just opened up onto hot pasta, and it kind of clings to the spaghetti noodles.”

The project recently won almost $69,000 dollars in funding from the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center. Sannito says the first part of research will be looking at product concepts, which they’ll start doing in the next few weeks.

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