Verlasso uncorking new marketing partnerships as sales surge
Miami, Florida-based Verlasso, a producer of premium farmed salmon, is entering new partnerships in the United States after seeing sales of its product soar in 2016.
The company, owned by Chilean salmon farming firm AquaChile, saw its sales rise around 30 percent last year, general manager Moises Del Rio told SeafoodSource, and Del Rio said he expects double digit growth for Verlasso in 2017, “led by a strong performance in [U.S.] retail, as well as a continuous development on the foodservice side.”
Verlasso has made a name for itself with a focus on sustainable practices. Originally a partnership between AquaChile and aquafeed-maker DuPont, Verlasso was one of the first farmed salmon companies to receive a “Good Alternative” rating from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWatch program. While DuPont divested from the company in 2016, Verlasso has continued to innovate with its feed formula – it began integrating algae into its feed model in the third quarter of 2016. Now, Verlasso’s feed is primarily vegetarian and is non-GMO.
“This means that Verlasso can be sold in a broad number of markets with no limitations due to the feed models,” said Jennifer Bushman, principal of Route to Market, which handles Verlasso’s high level sales outreach, thought leadership programs, marketing strategy and strategic planning.
Del Rio, who started with Verlasso in October 2016, has been pushing hard to make the most of Verlasso’s “eco-friendly” bona fides. Del Rio has extensive experience in sales and marketing, including from his previous job overseeing African and Middle East distribution for the wine company Vina Concha y Toro. He has made upping Verlasso’s brand recognition a priority, and has crafted a new sales and marketing strategy for the company that includes a partnership with Bonterra Organic Vineyards in Mendocino, California.
As part of the partnership, which began last week, in the next few months, several U.S. retail chains will feature co-branded Bonterra wines and Verlasso salmon marketing materials. Lobby displays, hang-tags on the wine bottles (offering a discount on Verlasso salmon), tastings, store promotions and in-store events will be included in the year-long collaboration. In addition, joint Verlasso and Bonterra displays will also be featured at the Taste of the Derby at the Kentucky Derby, the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, the Disney Epcot Food and Wine Festival and other events.
“We’re constantly looking at ways to improve our brand equity, so partnerships like the one we have agreed with Bonterra, are definitely in that road,” Del Rio said.
On the marketing front, Verlasso hired a new U.S. Midwest sales manager, and already has a West Coast and East Coast sales manager, Del Rio said.
“Ultimately, we would like to be recognized nationally, and eventually worldwide, for the high quality of our products and as a leader in sustainable farming practices,” Del Rio said. “We pride ourselves….with a very strong sales and marketing team, capable of assuming and exceeding every challenge that we’ve set so far.”
The United States is currently Verlasso’s primary market, and the company is continuing to grow its presence in the U.S., as it recently expanded its distribution at supermarket chains such as Hy-Vee as well as with several restaurant operators. Verlasso had its best year of sales at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, in March, and, this year, the salmon farmer expects to break sales records.
“The year has started incredibly for Verlasso, not only strongly exceeding our sales ambition for the first quarter of 2017, but also recruiting new customers and expanding our distribution throughout the country,” Del Rio said.
Del Rio said the company was also looking into eventually capitalizing on AquaChile’s existing sales networks outside of the United States, in places such as Canada, Europe and Asia, but that it wouldn’t be a primary focus for 2017.
“The system and structure is already built in,” Del Rio said. “Expanding to markets outside the U.S. has always been a goal, but it is not our primary focus at this time.”
While growing the company internationally made not be in his immediate plans, Del Rio said having the backing of AquaChile gives the company some major advantages, including the ability to scale to meet any larger opportunity that comes its way.
“Being an AquaChile partner, we have the capacity of scaling, while being very consistent in the quality of the product. This is very relevant, as it differentiates us from the competition that generally meets the sustainability standards, but do not have the capacity to scale yet,” Del Rio said.