Surimi Based Seafood

Market Name(s): Surimi seafoods, seafood analogs, imitation crab, shrimp etc.

Contact Purchasing
Surimi Based Seafood
  • Primary Source: U.S., Japan, Korea, China
  • Season: N/A
  • Primary Fishing Method: N/A

Size Range:


Product forms:

RAW: 22-lb blocks

PROCESSED: Seafood analogs in a variety of packs and shapes.


From whole fish to raw surimi: 15-18%.

Storage & Handling

Raw surimi must be held at -20°F. Processed surimi seafoods will last up to year if frozen; 60-90 days if refrigerated

Cooking Suggestions

Surimi seafoods are as convenient as seafood can be. Already cooked, they can be used in salads, sandwiches or even in sushi rolls. Surimi seafoods are also ideal for adding to pastas, quiches or casseroles.

Selling Points

  • Highly versatile, surimi seafoods can be used in salads or entrees— wherever you would use real shellfish meat.
  • At a fraction of the cost of the real thing, surimi seafoods are an excellent value.
  • Low cost allows you to use more “shellfish,” increasing consumer value perception.


  • Black specks, grayish color in raw surimi.
  • Excess water and starch in surimi seafoods.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Full variety of seafood analogs and brands in a wide variety of packs and sizes to meet every retail and foodservice need
  • Pacific Fresh brand crab analog is produced to company spec
  • Largest producer of raw material on West Coast


When is a crab a fish? When it’s made from surimi. Well, sort of. Surimi is actually deboned, minced and washed flesh from any of a number of fish that is used to make seafood analogs that look and taste as much as possible like high-value shellfish. A Japanese export, surimi seafoods were introduced to the U.S. market in the early 1980s. Since then, consumption of seafood analogs has grown to more than 150 million pounds a year by most estimates.

The Japanese have been turning fish into surimi for hundreds of years. The technique was originally developed as a way for fishermen to preserve their excess catches. Today, the Japanese make hundreds of products from surimi. Each year, the average Japanese person eats 15 pounds of surimi seafoods—an amount equal to all the seafood consumed annually by the average American.

In Japan, most surimi is still consumed as kamaboko, a traditional steamed and pressed fish sausage that is sold in a variety of colors. Chikuwa is kamaboko that is skewered and broiled.

The development of the technology to process and freeze surimi at sea led to the Japanese exploitation of the huge pollock resource off Alaska in the 1960s. As production of surimi climbed, Japanese food companies were forced to develop new products to increase surimi consumption. One of the most popular new surimi products was artificial crab meat, or “kaneboko” (the Japanese word for crab is kani), which was introduced in the 1970s.

While surimi is made from a number of white-fleshed fish, more surimi is made from Alaska pollock than any other fish. Depending upon market conditions, U.S. factory trawlers and shore-based processors will produce on average about 150,000 metric tons of pollock surimi a year.

Surimi is graded by its color and, most importantly, its gel strength, which is a measure of how well the surimi will bind with other ingredients. Because it has superior gel strength, surimi made from Alaska pollock sells for a premium.

More than half of the Pacific whiting catch off the Pacific Northwest is now processed into surimi, resulting in an annual whiting surimi production of about 40,000 tons. The growth in production of whiting surimi was due to the discovery that an additive can be used to stabilize an enzyme that breaks down whiting protein.

About 140,000 tons of surimi are exported by U.S. producers each year. Japan is the largest market by far, accounting for about 60% of the U.S. surimi exports. The rest of the exports go to surimi seafood manufacturers in Asia and Europe.

Surimi is made by pressing boneless fillets through an extruder, which produces a paste. The paste is then washed, a cryoprotectant is added (usually sorbitol) and the surimi is frozen in 22-pound blocks.

To make a seafood analog such as crab, surimi blocks are chopped and additional ingredients, including water, sugar, salt, binders, starches and flavors are added. The blended paste can then be extruded into a variety of shapes and steam cooked. Small amounts of real shellfish meat are added to premium seafood analogs, although for all practical purposes it is impossible to detect their presence in the final product.

The price (and quality) of surimi-based seafood analogs varies widely, depending upon the ingredient formula. Predictably, the cheapest products have the most water and the least surimi. In most cases, surimi accounts for about half the ingredients in most seafood analogs.

To judge the quality of a seafood analog, start by reading the label. A fish should be the first ingredient listed, not water. High quality analogs will also have a firm, not mushy, texture and a clean, sweet taste.