Beaver Street launches new Sea Best dips as retail sales soar
Beaver Street Fisheries’ business has been thriving amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a spike at retail over the past year.
The Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.A.-based manufacturer and wholesaler focused on supplying its retail customers with frozen and refrigerated seafood in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shifted demand. In 2021, the company plans on continuing to cater to retail, as well as foodservice, with the launch of its Sea Best-branded seafood dips.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, retailers didn’t want to focus on new products. They wanted to just keep their freezers stocked with commodity seafood,” Beaver Street Marketing Director Bluzette Carline told SeafoodSource. “Lucky for us, we have many freezer facilities, so we were always well-stocked on inventory.”
The company supplies more than 2,000 different products, including Sea Best individual fillets, snow crab clusters, seasoned and sliced ahi tuna steaks, bacon-wrapped scallops, and Argentine red shrimp. Beaver Street also carries a wide variety of farmed shrimp from Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)-certified farms, along with wild Key West pink shrimp.
While Beaver Street primarily supplied foodservice customers prior to the pandemic, “everything flipped to retail” after the pandemic began, according to Carline.
“Unfortunately, business slowed for a lot of our foodservice customers, but we used [that product] for retail,” Carline said.
Beaver Street ramped up its warehousing “to keep up with the demand of getting product in and out,” Carline added.
Even though the company’s sales “took a huge hit” in foodservice, retail sales have increased dramatically over the past year. As a result, Beaver Street’s overall sales for 2020 ended up equal to or slightly higher than 2019, according to Carline.
The company also invested in research and development employees who have “been working hard on new innovations,” Carline said.
The first rollout from that investment is four new frozen Sea Best shrimp-based dips, which retail for a suggested USD 5.99 (EUR 5.00) each. Flavors include: Zesty Buffalo Shrimp Dip, Creamy Rangoon Shrimp Dip, Spinach and Artichoke Shrimp Dip, Black Bean and Queso Shrimp Dip.
“We have been looking for something to break into the appetizer category, and this fit that need,” Carline said.
Shoppers are looking for something fun and different after they were focused on just stocking up on essentials at the beginning of the pandemic, she said. Some retailers are starting to carry the dips, and Beaver Street plans to offer them to foodservice customers next.
“This is something that would travel great for them,” Carline said.
Beaver Street has also seen an increase in retail sales of luxury items such as lobster and crab since the start of pandemic.
“People are spending more on those for special occasions and the whole shift in people cooking at home,” Carline said.
The “horrible” pandemic situation turned into something good for the seafood industry, Carline said. The industry has been working for years to encourage consumers to eat more seafood and frozen food, she said, and now, current conditions have led to exactly that.
The fact that people were cooking at home, “experimenting a bit more,” and wanting to eat healthy led to a surge in seafood sales at retail, she said.
“Another [previous] challenge was getting people to understand the benefits of frozen food. [With the pandemic], a lot of people wanted to try frozen to fill up their freezers,” Carline said.
In addition to partnering with retailers, Beaver Street worked with its foodservice customers on shifting gears and developing ways to stay profitable. None of the supplier’s restaurant customers closed their doors or gave up, Carline noted.
“We have been working very closely with them,” she said. “A lot of times, people think seafood doesn’t travel well, so we came up with solutions for them."
Beaver Street showed restaurant customers options other than the traditional center-of-the-plate seafood entrees for takeout and delivery.
Burritos, wraps, and similar products give restaurants a way to use the salmon, tuna, mahi, and other fish they have on hand in a different way – and a way that travels well, Carline said.
Photo courtesy of Beaver Street Fisheries