A surge in interest in food and cooking in general has brought with it more educated consumers who now want the best, freshest and most “on trend” seafood every day. Sydney-based company Peter Manettas Seafood is making this a reality for Australian consumers and businesses, through its online platform that allows customers to buy fresh seafood sourced from fish market auctions available only to the industry and have it delivered directly to their door. Owner Peter Manettas saw an opportunity to shake up the industry and grabbed it, and almost a year later the business is already proving successful.
“We spent close to six months with a development team down at the Sydney Fish Market, watching how customers purchase, watching trends like what they wanted done to the product when they purchased it, and any frustrations they had along the way,” says Manettas.
“We took all of that information and put it into a web platform to offer it to the consumer in New South Wales initially, and now we’re looking at pushing it to consumers across Australia.”
Not only is Manettas gearing up to expand the business into Brisbane and Melbourne, he also has plans to open a foodservice arm of the business that will give restaurants, bars and cafes easier access to top quality seafood.
“Currently chefs might use three or four different suppliers for their seafood, to make sure they’re getting quality produce,” says Manettas. “We’re going to give them the option of buying direct from the fisheries, delivered to their door.
“They’ll also be able to purchase in one transaction so rather than having to make five phone calls at the end of the night and be scared that someone’s not going to come through – it’s five transactions in one click of a button.”
Social media was a key element to getting the business off the ground, which Manettas says is something relatively new for the seafood industry.
“Every industry – meat, dairy, alcohol – they’ve all innovated themselves over time and yet the seafood industry has really stayed extremely stagnant,” he says.
“We had a three-month period before launch where we started to talk about what we were doing online. We had a lot of open communication with our customers on there. Upon launch we had close to 10,000 people following us [online] in Sydney alone, waiting for the service to get off the ground.”
He says having an open line of communication through social media is what has set his business apart from others in what is often a “very closed-door” industry.
“To do it properly and to ask the right questions of your customers and to be actively involved in that conversation online I think is important,” he says. “We’re tracking every day what’s happening – whether it be on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. The conversation is happening, you can either be a part of it or not be a part of it and we’ve chosen to lead the conversation moving forward.”
Bondi’s renowned Japanese seafood restaurant Raw Bar is another business that has led the charge in terms of consumer trends. It just celebrated its 20th year of business, proving it was well ahead of its time when it was serving up Japanese-style raw fish in the mid-nineties. General manager Karl Misch says when Raw
Bar opened, there was only a handful of establishments like it in Sydney.
“It was hugely before its time,” he says.
“Over the last 20 years, as Japanese food and raw seafood has become more popular, and all of the health benefits that have gone on with that, it’s become more and more busy and a bit of a locals’ favourite.”
He says customers continue to come back for Raw Bar’s signature dishes – some of which have been on the menu for over a decade, like the tuna tataki, lightly seared sashimi-grade tuna with a signature seven spice mix and wasabi mayonnaise.
Misch says consumers’ tastes and expectations around seafood have definitely progressed since Raw Bar began.
“Everybody is looking for seasonal produce and they’re aware that the freshest things are coming in seasonally now, whereas ten years ago it just wasn’t the case,” he says.
Taking note of the shift towards Japanese-style seafood, Ōra King Salmon is taking the 2017 Ōra King Awards to Japan. The “Ōra’s” were established in 2013 to recognise chefs working with Ōra King Salmon, which is a unique breed of the rare King salmon species. To be in the running for this year’s awards, which will be announced in Tokyo in October, chefs were required to create an innovative Ōra King dish with a Japanese twist.
“When it comes to cuisine, Japan’s ancient food traditions are an inspiration to the relatively new, but evolving culinary scene in New Zealand and Australia,” says New Zealand King Salmon general manager of marketing Jemma McCowan.
“Since our launch in 2011, we’ve seen strong growth of Ōra King salmon in Japan’s high end foodservice category and look forward to giving our best chefs a money can’t buy experience in one of the most fascinating and multifaceted food cultures in the world.”