Over the past decade, oyster consumption has steadily increased around the world in both the retail and foodservice levels. In February of 2003, the Wave, an electronic news reporting system on seafood, reported that shellfish menus are up 33 per cent over the last four years. The oyster market on half-shells has considerably expanded, particularly in the USA, through the restaurant trade and more specifically with the oyster bar phenomenon.
This general craze for oysters is mainly due to a shift in consumer demographics. Traditionally, oysters were consumed in great majority by people over 45 years of age with higher incomes. Today, oysters have become a fun and healthy seafood product that the younger generation also enjoys. In fact, oyster bar operators report that there is no age, gender, race or religious belief that characterize today’s oyster consumer. The younger crowd of 15 years of age to 44 enjoys the fun and healthy aspect of eating raw oysters. The traditional older and more sophisticated individuals still enjoy their favorite oysters while adventuring with others.
While oysters become more and more popular all over the world their availability at retailers’ is still far from optimum. Traditionally, oysters in restaurants and fish shops have been a seasonal commodity. Their availability has been limited to the months with “r’s” in them – September to April, thus artificially restricting their consumption to the festive season. The notion that oysters should not be eaten in “r” less months probably started in the days when oysters were shipped without adequate refrigeration and could spoil during transport. But today, transport conditions have changed. Retailers can supply fresh oysters twelve months a year almost anywhere in the world.
So, why don’t more restaurants and fish shops propose oysters all year round while the demand is there? Simply because they know that selling live oysters is a delicate task, especially during the Summer. In addition to proper transport conditions, it requires a very meticulous supply and storage management to make sure that losses due to stock shortage or dead / past-sales stocks don’t exceed margins on sales. Only a few specialists have the experience and turnover required. The others had either to give up oyster sales or to restraint their offer to the Winter season.
We, at SEALIFE Equipment, anticipated the current craze for oysters and foresaw the retailers’ needs in view of this evolution. Already a few years ago, boosted by the success of our lobster tanks in the restaurant trade, we decided to develop a live oyster storage system able to come up to the new expectations of the restaurant and seafood trade. We then identified and worked on the following requirements:
• High preservation performance: we wanted to make sure that our oyster tank would keep oysters fresh and alive until consumption, whatever the date and season. We had to reduce dead losses to the irreducible rate (our aim wasn’t to make everlasting oysters!) without altering their taste.
• High visibility to customers: not only our system had to keep oysters fresh and alive but it also had to appeal to customers - for retailers to get the full benefits of the machine.
• Low maintenance: we knew that retailers have no spare time to spend on routine maintenance of their equipment. It was therefore obvious that maintenance had to be as simple and as short as possible.
• Optimized size: in all shops, space is precious and subject to change. We therefore had to develop a mobile and self-contained system that would take as less space as possible.
• That’s how, after years of research, trials and developments, we came up with the SEALIFE OysterBar, the ultimate device for attractive display and optimal storage of live fresh oysters all year round. This unique oyster tank allows professionals in the fish and restaurant trade to fully benefit from the huge oyster market potential.