Uoriki Fresh Inc.

Fresh from the Catch to the Kitchen through Superfreezing
Written by: 
Molly Shaw

Fresher than fresh seafood is Uoriki Fresh Inc.’s (Uoriki) middle name. The New Jersey-based seafood importer and processor utilizes cutting-edge superfrozen technology to deliver high-quality tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallops and other top-quality sushi ingredients from around the world at a competitive price.

Uoriki is a Japanese compound word,” explains Gomi Yoshitomo, CEO of Uoriki. “Uo means ‘fish’ and riki means ‘the spirit of.’ Our mission is to share our passion for seafood and transfer any knowledge we might have to interested clients here.”

Uoriki entered the U.S. market by purchasing the fledgling superfrozen tuna division of Mitsubishi in 2008. “We have the most technically advanced negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit freezer in North America,” reveals Gomi. “Adding to this is our investment in training staff, creating shipping solutions, providing special ULT freezers to customers, training distributors and ensuring we serve customers to the best of our ability.”

The company has established itself as one of the largest superfrozen supply chains in the industry, bringing superfrozen product from the Indian Ocean, Asia and South America. Additionally, the company is able to distribute nationwide in the U.S. and Canada.

Gomi Dreams of Sushi

According to Gomi, a meal at the famous restaurant of Jiro Dreams Of Sushi can take up to three months to book and cost $350 per head. Gomi wants every consumer to have the pleasure of good sushi and that is what he works for.

“Working with leading supermarkets in North America where sushi is served, we realize now that sushi is now entering the second stage of its life here in the U.S.,” he says. “It began 25 years ago in California and today sushi is everywhere; every supermarket, every university and every shopping mall food court and so on. It’s becoming like apple pie.”

According to Gomi, however, the available sushi has not been very good sushi, and American consumers are demanding better. “That’s where we come in,” he says. “As a specialist in all, natural, fully traceable and sustainable sushi ingredients, we work with clients to present top quality programs and keep them improving. We teach clients about why the highest quality rice and superior nori make such a big difference and one that the consumer will notice and appreciate by buying it.”

Gomi is proud of how far Uoriki has come. “It doesn’t stop there,” he continues. “We teach operators about new ingredients, such as the vegetable- or fruit-based sheets from New Gem Foods in California, which are an incredible option for people who may prefer not to eat seaweed. A vegetarian roll in a carrot-ginger wrap instead of seaweed has brought many thousands more people to sushi that did not eat it prior.”

Even on the shelves, Gomi is striving for perfection. Uoriki supplies sushi packaging that boosts sales through the innovative use of color bases and special lids with light filters built in, causing the product to stand out. “We produce the impossible and the improbable in pursuit of the best,” Gomi says. “For example four years ago, a chef asked us to produce a kanikama [imitation crab stick] using clean ingredients. We did so, and then he asked to make it gluten-free. Back then, gluten was the binder. Three months and we did just that, producing the first and only gluten-free, chemical-free, sustainable kanikama in the market. Today it’s common place; all the major producers have a gluten-free option.”

Gomi will not rest on his laurels, though. “We are now working on projects that will take our clients to the next level of clean sushi programs,” he continues. “For example, American Sashimi is a program where we are taking local fish and preparing it for sushi use. North American fish are just as awesome as fish found off the coast of Japan or anywhere else. We just have to learn to handle them with respect from catch to kitchen. Already we have worked on albacore, summer flounder, East Coast squid and Hawaiian Kampachi; expect more this year.”

SuperFrozen Super Foods

According to Gomi, one can freeze a product rapidly to the Eutectic Point (EP) and it stalls the natural decay process that begins upon death. At the EP, or negative 76 degrees Fahrenheit, all biological activity, chemical activity and enzyme activity completely stops; therefore, decomposition and oxidation cannot occur. “When you revive it, the product is exactly at the moment it was when frozen,” he explains. “Given that is often just hours post-harvest, accordingly we say: Fresher than fresh.”

Superfreezing is truly the only natural way to preserve product perfectly. According to Uoriki’s website, the superfrozen process is comparable to practices in the medical field used to preserve blood. “We love this process, as it allows for such consistency with seafood,” Gomi says. “There is no rush to market; the tuna are caught, properly harvested, processed and only the usable product is shipped to the market via low cost ocean freight, thus maintaining lower carbon footprint, also.”

Gomi goes on to note that the chef revives only what he needs, instead of the rush to use a whole loin before it goes off-color, thus managing shrink. “Because of the lack of pressure, consistency of price, grading and product quality, color is all common with superfrozen tuna,” Gomi says. “We import from all over the world, so this process is very beneficial.”

The Next Five Years and Beyond

Gomi and his team are excited for the future. “I think the market will very much accept our process and natural products,” he says. “I want consumers to know what good fish really is and introduce a higher-grade sushi into the market. Most of the time people are eating bad tuna and they don’t even know it. Tuna is like beef; it does not remain naturally red for very long and, unfortunately, processors fool consumers with a gassed product. We call it tail-pipe tuna, because it’s the same gas that comes out of your car exhaust. Unfortunately, many sushi counters are also using gassed tilapia and Hamachi.”

Gomi is proud to note that Uoriki has the best supermarket chains in the U.S. and Canada on its client list, all of which espouse clean and natural food programs. “We count top restaurants as customers and many distributors who have come to appreciate some of the Japanese seafood handling techniques,” he says.

Despite success, Gomi recognizes what is truly important. “Our customers are our greatest assets,” he says. “They allow us to meet, talk to, feed and test the consumer. We are very much a background company, however, and prefer to be there. We love to work with companies who really like their customers and seek to give them the best of the best.”

In his new leadership role, Gomi wants to focus on introducing more nontraditional flavors, including a Miso-marinated range. “Consumers really appreciate it once they taste it,” he says.

What once was a small-scale operation has since grown into the largest superfrozen supplier in the industry. The company’s dedication to quality is never-ending; through natural products, unaltered in color, unadulterated by chemicals or additives, Uoriki Fresh Inc. delivers a culinary quality that is second to none.

For more information about Uoriki Fresh Inc., please visit: www.minus76.com.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Misui Foods