Tuna with zing

Seoul, South Korea-based Dongwon Group, owner of the StarKist brand, fired an autumn volley with Autentico, chunk light tuna with jalapeños, chili peppers and other seasonings with an Hispanic flair. The line debuted in Walmart stores in October, according to Jennifer Albert, marketing director for Pittsburgh-based StarKist. Walmart remains the line’s exclusive retail outlet.

The Hispanic market is targeted by StarKist with its Autentico line,though the company expects the premium products to appeal to a wider audience looking for more variety and healthier options.

Within weeks, Oregon Seafoods was on grocers’ shelves in the Pacific Northwest with Sea Fare Pacific, six ounces of albacore that is smoked or flavored with jalapeños or sea salt. The preservative-free retorted pouches retail in the $5.50 to $7.00 range, with a smaller pouch set for distribution through sporting goods stores and other retail outlets outside the food sales mainstream.

West Coast “boutique” canneries have dabbled with flavored tuna in recent years, observes Mike Babcock, owner of Coos Bay, OR-based Oregon Seafoods, but both Albert and he see bigger things ahead for flavored tuna. New dietary guidelines from USDA that recommend consumption of more seafood are part of it, but Albert believes a trend toward more “adventurous” eating—along with the burgeoning Hispanic population—will fuel growth in the formerly moribund tuna category.

“These products are designed to provide an alternative to a cheeseburger, and that’s where incremental growth will come,” Albert says. “It’s not just tuna fish; it’s more a complete meal.”

The revival of StarKist’s classic “Sorry, Charlie” ads speaks to healthier eating, with a catch phrase thanking Charlie the tuna for providing a healthy option. But well before the revised food pyramid debuted last year, StarKist and other tuna processors began catering to Americans’ interest in more exotic flavor options. StarKist saluted its parent company’s Asian roots with a sweet and spicy tuna; roasted garlic and lemon flavors in its Select line were meant to evoke Italian fare. The more adventurous tuna commands a premium: The shelf price for Autentico at a Chicago area Walmart in December was $1.38, or 25.1 cents an ounce. Bumble Bee’s varieties, featuring olive oil and sundried tomatoes, jalapeño and chipotle flavors, were pricier still, at 39.6 cents an ounce.

Sea Fare Pacific caters to an even more discerning clientele. A refugee from the lumber business, Babcock followed his passion for food two years ago and developed his own food plant, outfitting the space with two Toyo Jidoki pouch filling and sealing machines and retort equipment. After copacking foodservice pouches with two- and four-pound quantities of tuna, he launched the Sea Fare line in November 2011.

To maintain product quality, Babcock flash freezes whole fish and maintains temperatures below 30°F throughout the processing and packaging process. Cooking and sterilizing are performed in the retort, he explains, resulting in better flavor and up to six times the omega 3 content of conventional processes. He boasts the six-hour smoking process using alder chips produces “a mild, moist meat.” But it’s the jalapeño flavoring that is provoking the most enthusiasm from grocery buyers, he adds.
Tuna packers are hoping the enthusiasm will carry over to store shelves and more shoppers will opt for value-added tuna. 

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

Recent Articles by Kevin Higgins, Senior Editor

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo 2015

Images from Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo in Clearwater Beach, Florida, April 12-15, 2015. The event brought food and beverage processors and suppliers together to gain valuable information on the latest trends and technologies in manufacturing, automation, sustainability and food safety.


Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

Food Engineering

Food Engineering May 2015 Cover

2015 May

The May 2015 issue of Food Engineering explores effective tools for hitting manufacturing targets. Also, read how processors are looking for faster ways to detect harmful pathogens in food and beverages without sacrificing accuracy or reliability.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Plant Facility/Site Issues

What issue about your current plant facility/site keeps you up the most at night?
View Results Poll Archive


Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.png linkedin_40px.pngGoogle +

Food Master

Food Engineering Food Master 2015Food Master 2015 is now available!

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit to learn more.