INTRACOASTAL CITY — Local shrimpers have long touted what they say is the sweeter taste of the white shrimp harvested in the Vermilion Bay area.
That distinction is now highlighted in a new project to give a brand name to local shrimp and offer what promoters say is a top-shelf product for the year-round frozen seafood market.
The first 1,000 pound-and-a-half frozen packages of “Vermilion Bay Sweet” shrimp will debut at the Delcambre Shrimp Festival this weekend.
“They are taking the best shrimp off the best boats,” said Thomas Hymel, an agent with the Louisiana Sea Grant program and LSU AgCenter who is helping oversee the launch of “Vermilion Bay Sweet.”
The new brand grew out of the Delcambre Direct Seafood program, a Port of Delcambre project that began in 2010 to help local fishermen better market their seafood.
Delcambre Direct has developed an Internet site that allows fishermen to post information about the size and quality of their catch and to let customers know when the seafood will be available fresh off the boat.
The new “Vermilion Bay Sweet” brand expands that marketing effort into the packaged seafood arena by appealing to customers who value the local catch.
“We are finding there is a real interest in buying local products,” Hymel said.
He said the frozen packages are expected to sell for about $15 for a pound-and-a-half of extra large shrimp that have been quick frozen on the boat, peeled by hand, de-veined and vacuum packed.
The shrimp selected for packaging run about 13 to 15 to a pound before peeling, Hymel said.
“You look at them and they look like a chicken leg,” he said.
The shrimp for the pilot project are being peeled and packed at Gulf South Inc.’s dock in Intracoastal City, a facility that works with about 20 to 25 of the large shrimp boats that stay on the water for weeks at a time, said Thu Bui, another agent with Louisiana Sea Grant and LSU AgCenter.
Most of the shrimp that come through such facilities would normally be packed in bulk for distribution all over the United States with little concern given to capitalizing on local origin, Hymel said.
“They are taking the best of the best shrimp and pulling it out of the commodity stream,” he said.
Vui Nguyen, who has operated the Gulf South dock with her husband since 2002, said she hopes the new initiative will showcase the quality of local shrimp.
“She’s benefiting from it, the consumer is benefiting from it and the she will be able to pay the fishermen better as well,” Bui said.
Hymel said the next planned project is a “gumbo pack” of smaller shrimp under the same brand.
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