Sustainable seafood market extends 'whole fish' idea with line of supplements

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy Wixter Market/Galdones Photography
Photo courtesy Wixter Market/Galdones Photography

Related tags Salmon

Chicago sustainable seafood purveyor Wixter Market has developed that sustainability idea further by seeking to sell every part of the fish via a line of private label salmon oil omega-3 supplements.

The dietary supplement line is the first of three side stream supplement products that are planned to roll out over the next year or so (the others are fish-derived calcium and protein products). All are gleaned from the offcuts of Norwegian farmed salmon production. The raw material is extracted by Norwegian processor Hofseth Biocare.

Launching the line was an easy decision for Wixter owner Matt Mixter. In addition to being a fishmonger, Mixter is also the principal in Hofseth Biocare USA, the company’s North American distribution arm, which he calls his ‘day job.’ (Wixter, by the way, is a combination of Mixter and the market’s location in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.)

Fish first

While at first glance offering an omega-3 supplement alongside the filets of the same fish might imply that the fish flesh itself is deficient in some way, Mixter said it’s more a case of trying to extend the benefits of the omega-3s in whole salmon oil to members of his customers’ families who might not like eating fish.

“There is nothing better than eating the fish, unless it is for a specific ailment and you are taking a very high concentration of omega-3s. We always say it is much better to eat the whole fish than to take a supplement. But we have a lot of families where the husband might like fish and the rest of the family doesn’t like it at all,”​ Mixter told NutraIngredients-USA.

“If you want an all natural product that has been extracted in the most gentle way possible, then we have a product for you,”​ he said. “So far as I know this is the only fish oil product that has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the oxidized lipid levels in the blood within the first 30 days of taking it.”

Mixter said Hofseth’s proximity to the fish farming pens in Norway means the oil is unusually fresh. And part of Hofseth’s value message is that it uses a gentle enzymatic process to liberate the oil from the parts of the fish left over after the filets have been cut. Other companies use heat or solvents, Mixter said.

“Our totox levels are incredibly low. And this is a whole spectrum oil, with omega 3, 6 and 9,” ​Mixter said.

Sustainability throughout supply chain

Wixter Market was founded on a strategy of buying only frozen fish transported via surface shipping. Mixter said for him sustainability doesn’t just mean that the fish species is sustainably harvested, but also that the fish as it comes to market does not represent a climate-change contributing chunk of carbon.

“When you fly fish in on first class the carbon footprint is about eight times that of ocean freight,”​ Mixter said.

Some might raise an issue of saying “fish farming” and “sustainability” in the same breath. Atlantic salmon have been farmed in Chile, for example, where the species is not native. The Chilean pens suffered a severe disease crash a number of years ago, and the concentration of fish waste and parasites in confined areas has been an issue with fish farming operations elsewhere with salmon and other species of seafood. Mixter countered that it’s not one size fits all in the aquaculture business.

“We sell wild caught Alaskan salmon right along with farmed Norwegian salmon,” ​he said. “Every country has different rules and regulations. To put a blanket statement around the farm raising of any seafood is irresponsible. Norway has a completely different set of rules and regulations around salmon farming that what they used to have in Chile. It’s all about finding the right processors to work with. I would never buy farm-raised shrimp from Bangladesh, for example.”

In addition to frozen fish and supplements, Wixter also sells a line of ‘super frozen’ fish kept cold enough to allow the thawed product to be sliced for sashimi, and offers a line of high end sustainably-harvested tinned seafoods.

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