Canadian fresh blue cultured mussel exports to the U.S. grew by 10 percent in 2010.

This figure is based on import data recently provided by the United States National Marine Fisheries Service, and lists Canadian mussels as the most imported variety of mussels—overtaking New Zealand mussels for the first time.

"Surpassing New Zealand in mussels exported to the U.S. market is an important milestone for us," says Terry Ennis, president of the Mussel Industry Council of North America.

"For many years New Zealand has led in sales, importing frozen cooked mussels on the half shell. What we're seeing now is the market respond to our product that is eco-friendly and available live and fresh all year round."

Canadian mussel exports to the U.S. were worth $27.4 million in 2010, up from nearly $26.7 million in 2009. The figures from the U.S. indicate Canada led mussel imports in 2010 with 47 percent of the market compared with 42 percent for New Zealand.

"We believe the significant growth of fresh Canadian mussel exports to the U.S. is based on three main factors: the quality and appeal of fresh live mussels, the recession, and increased marketing efforts," says Linda Duncan, executive director of the Mussel Industry Council.

Fresh Canadian mussels are exported to the U.S. throughout the year. The quality of a fresh product that is available daily has led to growth in consumer demand, Duncan explains.

"Our mussels really are a better choice than the frozen product," he says. "Fresh mussels stand on their own with a wonderful taste that consumers are enjoying at restaurants across the country and at home where they are easy to prepare."

Fresh mussels provided a price point matched for the recession. When compared to other seafood, both consumers and the restaurant industry responded to the value proposition of fresh blue mussels.

"Finally, we can attribute rising exports to the U.S. to our marketing efforts that promote health and sustainability messages,” Duncan says. "In the past year the Mussel Industry Council has exhibited at major restaurant and consumer shows and held multiple online campaigns, contests and recipe offers to encourage the consumption of these delicious mussels.”

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