Ship to Table
Frozen seafood dinners get a boost from Food Science students.
When the two alums who founded Locals Seafood decided to create heat-and-eat meals featuring seafood caught in North Carolina, they got a little help from some graduate students in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.
The students in Clint Stevenson’s food safety class helped the company, founded by Ryan Speckman ’02 and Lin Peterson ’03, put together an FDA-required safety plan known as HACCP (Hazard and Critical Control Points). In the past, the class had helped other enterprises solve food safety issues, but this was first time his students had worked with seafood, which can be challenging. “It’s not like making cupcakes,” says Stevenson, an associate professor.
Speckman and Lin founded the company in 2010. Most of the seafood caught off the N.C. coast is shipped to northern hubs like Philadelphia, Pa. and New York, N.Y., so the duo decided to start bringing more to the Triangle and, along the way, introduced restaurant chefs to local species like black drum and sheepshead.
During the pandemic, they noticed the importance of convenience. “We started toying with the idea of a frozen fish meal that was ready to go into the oven,” Speckman says. They hired a chef, developed recipes — such as garlic herb butter flounder — and hope to have the product in Raleigh area grocery stores this fall.
The dinners are frozen using nitrogen blast freezers in a plant near the coast — important because the freezing occurs so fast that it doesn’t taste like frozen fish, Speckman says. Every step of the process had to be documented for the food safety plan, so the students took field trips to the coast and spent time in the company’s new processing plant in Raleigh. “It was exciting for them to work on a new product,” Stevenson says.