DELCAMBRE, La. --- Vermilion Bay Sweet shrimp, a local brand owned by the Port of Delcambre, will make its major grocery store debut in Rouses locations in Lafayette and Youngsville Wednesday, November 6. As a slow shrimp season comes to a close in December, the local product fills an important gap for fishermen and consumers as shrimp globally are in short supply.
"The shrimp numbers have been down this year, with more in the smaller sizes; small shrimp have traditionally been sold to commercial processors at a much lower price point," says Thomas Hymel, marine agent with Louisiana Sea Grant and director of the Louisiana Direct Seafood program. "It's been hard for fishermen to make a living on small shrimp that consumers are not as keen to buy fresh and peel. Of course, that's where the beauty of Vermilion Bay Sweet comes into play."
The Vermilion Bay Sweet (VBS) 'gumbo' shrimp pack, now available in Rouses and a few other local stores, is the local 70/90 shrimp that is peeled, frozen fresh and vacuum packed with no sodium tripolyphosphate (STP).
"We've taken a secondary product-the smaller shrimp-and created a viable, delicious gourmet shrimp brand," says Hymel. "With a major player like Rouses on board, this offers new opportunities for the shrimpers. Not only are we creating a demand for this smaller shrimp, but the volume of VBS sold at a grocery store will allow the fishermen to benefit financially. Our long term goal is to get a small portion of the profits of VBS back to the fisherman."
Vermilion Bay Sweet began as a small demonstration project by partners in business, industry, fishermen and Louisiana State University-all coming together to keep local commercial fishing alive. Originally developed as a premium, hand-peeled jumbo shrimp package, the brand's immediate success spawned the 'gumbo' shrimp size pack and has led to the development of a black drum product due to hit stores in about a month. Catfish and crab products are in the works.
"This project has shown that consumers want a product that tastes right off the boat, and VBS delivers," says Hymel. "Our seafood tastes fresh because it is frozen and packaged right off the dock, using strict quality standards developed by Louisiana Sea Grant. Fishermen are encouraged to implement those best practice standards because of the economic incentives . . . so everybody wins, especially the consumer."
The Vermilion Bay Sweet frozen shrimp 'gumbo pack' is a signature brand of the Delcambre Direct Seafood program, and is the FIRST product to carry the Certified Authentic Louisiana Wild Seafood label. Created by the Twin Parish Port Commission, in partnership with LSU Ag Center and Louisiana Sea Grant, Delcambre Direct Seafood is part of the statewide Louisiana Direct Seafood initiative. It provides an online marketplace for consumers to connect directly with local fishermen to purchase fresh, wild-caught seafood.