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Photo by: Kari Walker
Thomas Hymel of Delcambre Direct and Tammy Gordon of the Port of Delcambre

As the slow shrimp season comes to a close in December, demand for the Louisiana product, especially with gumbo weather in the forecast, remains high.

Vermilion Bay Sweet is a local brand of shrimp originally developed as a premium, hand-peeled jumbo shrimp package. This year's depressed shrimp harvest, however, has spawned a new product for VBS, which is owned by Port of Delcambre. Within the last week VBS released its "gumbo" shrimp product at Rouses in Lafayette and Youngsville. These two Rouses locations are a test market, and if the product fares well, it will be added to additional locations in the Rouses chain.

“The shrimp numbers have been down this year, with more in the smaller sizes," Thomas Hymel, marine agent with Louisiana Sea Grant and director of the Louisiana Direct Seafood program, says in a press release announcing the product. "Small shrimp have traditionally been sold to commercial processors at a much lower price point. It’s been hard for fishermen to make a living on small shrimp that consumers are not as keen to buy fresh and peel."

That, says Hymel, is where VBS is stepping in.

The VBS 70/90-count shrimp pack is sold in the freezer section. The fresh shrimp is peeled, deveined, vacuum packed and frozen — without the preservative and flavor killer sodium tripolyphosphate. What makes VBS shrimp unique is that it is fished in the Vermilion Bay exclusively, a guaranteed Louisiana product.

“We’ve taken a secondary product — the smaller shrimp — and created a viable, delicious gourmet shrimp brand,” adds 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 fishermen.”

Hymel says VBS is a way to partner business, industry, fishermen and LSU to keep local commercial fishing thriving.

“This project has shown that consumers want a product that tastes right off the boat,” says Hymel.

VBS says its frozen shrimp "gumbo" pack is the first product to carry the certified authentic Louisiana wild seafood label. The product line is being expanded to include black drum, catfish and crab products.

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