Seafood company Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. has developed alternatives for Japanese flying squid and imported salmon to meet sushi and sashimi demand.

Record poor catches of the squid in waters around Japan since 2016 have pushed up prices sharply. As of late February, the squid’s wholesale price at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo stood at more than twice the level seen three years before. Wholesale prices of imported salmon have also risen amid growing demand in Europe and the United States, causing domestic fresh fish retailers “headaches,” said an official at a midsize supermarket chain in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

In response to the price concerns, Nippon Suisan has developed a Japanese flying squid alternative using the South American Humboldt squid, whose catches and prices have been relatively stable.

The foreign species is larger than the Japanese squid and its meat is chewy. Its biggest disadvantage is the meat’s bitter taste. But the company, experienced in handling foreign squid, has discovered ways to remove the bitterness and keep the savory umami flavor, one of the developers said.

A major conveyor belt restaurant chain has already decided to sell sushi using Nippon Suisan’s Humboldt squid as topping for ¥100 per two pieces.

To develop a replacement for imported salmon, the company turned its eyes on domestically farmed coho salmon — although the meat was initially too soft to be served as sashimi. Nippon Suisan overcame that problem by firming up the meat with salt at low temperatures.

Also, because the coho salmon are raised off Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, where ocean currents move quickly, their meat is “as resilient as that of imported quality salmon,” a supermarket official said.

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