Rich Products’ new chair plans to continue company’s legacy of innovation

Mindy Rich, the new chair of Rich Products.

Rich Products’ new chair Mindy Rich is no stranger to the company’s innovation efforts.

Named company chair on 8 August, Rich has been with the family-led company –the owners of SeaPak, one of the largest frozen seafood retail brands in the world – since 1985. In her 37 years with the company, she has served in a number of different roles, including a post as the vice president of innovation.

In an interview with SeafoodSource, Rich said she's aware she's taking the helm at a time of unprecedented global uncertainty, between geopolitical conflicts, rising inflation, and ongoing supply chain issues.

“I would have to say that the experience that we’ve all had for the past three years has kind of proven that making hard-and-fast plans can be thrown out the window in a minute when you can’t predict what the future is going to be,” she told SeafoodSource.

Despite the global uncertainty, Rich said, the company is still charting a course for sustained growth.

“I give our professional management team incredible credit, because while we’ve been firefighting and dealing with the supply chain issues and COVID and all of the activities that all of us are dealing with, our team has also been setting then course for the long-term,” she said. “We, being a privately held company, are in it for the long-term and, we look out into the future. And the future for us is driven by our customers, and what our customers need.”

Focusing on customers is part of what has driven the company to success during the last three tumultuous years – and a key part of that focus on customers is innovation.

“Innovation has always been one of our core values,” she said. “One of the principles of that is you have to accept change. You have to embrace change, and you have to drive change. We’ve had that as a part of our culture for years and years – that’s going to continue.”

Rich praised the spirit of entrepreneurship at Rich Products, which she said has existed since she first joined the company in 1985.

“There was all sorts of opportunities. I had never been in a situation where there were more product ideas,” she said. “That was part of my role back then. How do you harness this entrepreneurship, this entrepreneurial mindset, and make that happen?”

Rich said, as chair of the company, she hopes to continue to successfully nuture and harness that entrepreneurial spirit.

“I used to say that, just like anything else, you develop muscles, and when you first start to develop these muscles, you feel them and make you sore and it's hard to do – but pretty soon it just becomes part of who you are and how you operate,” Rich said. “And I think that our innovation muscles are well developed and strong.”

The main vessel through which Rich Products intreracts with the seafood world is SeaPak. Rich Consumer Brands Division Senior Vice President Shannon Gilreath told SeafoodSource SeaPak will remain the flagship brand for the company’s consumer brands division.

“We really pride ourselves on being the best-tasting, most-sustainable seafood, and that we make it accessible to America and families across the United States,” Gilreath said. “That is what SeaPak is about, fundamentally. It always has been, and it always will be, and we are very proud of that mission.”

SeaPak is focused on creating new products that consumers will enjoy, which ties back to the company’s focus on innovation, Rich said. One initiative that the company continues to expand on is SeaPak’s partnership with the Budweiser brand.

SeaPak announced in 2019 it had partnered with the Anheuser-Busch-owned brewing company Budweiser on a line of sustainable seafood products. The company released a set of new frozen seafood offerings – SeaPak Budweiser Beer Battered Shrimp, SeaPak Budweiser Beer Battered Cod, and SeaPak Budweiser Beer Battered Crab Popper – as part of that partnership.

According to Gilreath, that partnership has continued, and the company plans even more releases this year using the combined branding.

“We have a whole portfolio of SeaPak-Budweiser products launching – some are in-market, but our recent line extension is the Budweiser flounder strips that will be launching in the back-half of this year in 2022, into 2023,” she said. “We are seeing tremendous success with our partnership there. It’s just another way for us to build our portfolio into more value-added breaded products, leveraging this iconic brand in Budweiser.”

Another key piece of innovation that the company has had success with is “southern-style” fish entrees. SeaPak launched a Southern Style Jumbo Shrimp product nationwide in February 2022, which Gilreath said was driven by the company tapping into ongoing consumer trends.

“Everything 'southern-style' is doing very well. Comfort food is obviously growing and it continues to grow through the pandemic, and will likely surge again through the recessionary times,” she said.

Innovation is also a big part of why the company acquired Morey’s Seafood International in 2020, Gilreath said.

“That business was really just a natural fit and an extension of what we really live and breathe with the SeaPak brand,” she said.

Morey’s, Gilreath said, has “tremendous product quality” and the company’s chef-inspired marinades are something SeaPak and Rich’s plans to innovate with as the partnership deepens.

“The freshness of the products is something that is definitely differentiated on the shelf and consumers can taste it immediately,” she said.

Coming up, SeaPak is planning to launch a new garlic-herb flounder in 2023, extending off of Morey’s salmon product lines.

While innovation is a core focus on the company, Rich said, it hasn’t forgotten its family roots. Founded in 1945, Rich’s new position continues the legacy of the company’s private ownership, something she told SeafoodSource is important to the company's values.

“I know that being family-owned is the core as to that value-based culture. Not to say that publicly traded companies that are out there can’t have good values, but I do know with us, that’s who we are,” Rich said.

Rich said the company has been planning for the leadership transition for years. She has worked at Rich Products since 1985, and her husband, Robert E. Rich, Jr., who previously served as chair, is assisting with the transition as he moves into the position of senior chair. Mindy Rich said the family agrees selling the business is out of the question.

“To be honest with you, never once have we ever considered selling or going public. It’s part of our family mandate,” Rich said. “My husband used to say any letters that came through asking if we were up for sale or interested in selling, he never even looked at them. His told his assistant to just throw them away. We don’t even know who has inquired.”  

Photo courtesy of Rich Products


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