Food Processor of the Year

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Featured Category - Food Processor of the Year
Northwest Frozen, Seattle

From left, Northwest Frozen vice president of operations Henderson Mar, CEO Phil Sinz and president James Foreman, photographed by Andrew Waits.

Some foods, no matter how popular they are when freshly made, don’t translate well to frozen. That was the conventional wisdom, anyway, with sushi. It would never be more than a local product, and then only if a retailer did enough volume business to justify the expense of an on-site sushi chef or of selling shelf-stable sushi made with additives and preservatives.

Northwest Frozen is trying to upset that situation with a line of frozen sushi. Marketing it under the brand name Banzai Sushi, the company uses wild-caught sustainable fish when possible and flash-freezing technology, eschewing preservatives. It says it also has figured out how to keep rice fluffy after freezing and thawing. Current offerings include California rolls, Seattle rolls (salmon, cream cheese and asparagus wrapped in rice) and rolls with crab, tuna and shrimp.

Northwest Frozen is targeting food-service suppliers to colleges, groceries, hospitals, cafeterias and events, but also sells its sushi direct to consumers at banzai-sushi.com.

The company says it is now the largest frozen-sushi manufacturer in the world, with sales tripling in 2010 and expected to double in 2011. (It bought a custom-built sushi-rolling machine to produce 100,000 pieces a day.) Northwest Frozen sells in the U.S., Canada, Chile and 13 European countries. Employment grew from 10 to 27.

Oh, yes. Northwest Frozen hasn’t forsaken fresh sushi. For the University of Washington, it introduced a line of fresh sushi in fully compostable packaging.

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