Delta Airlines gives fliers a taste of American seafood with help from Pike Place Market

Published on
August 5, 2016

A couple of years ago, Ryan Reese, a fishmonger and a managing member of Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market – which is famous for fishmongers who throw fish in the air and entertain customers – had a very fortuitous meeting Mike Medeiros, a vice president with Delta Airlines.

The meeting, which happened while Reese was actually in the process of throwing fish, landed him a great business opportunity and the potential to grow his business exponentially.

“I met [Mike] at an auction while we were throwing fish,” Reese told SeafoodSource. “I started talking to him and he said Delta would love to partner with us.”

Soon afterwards, an executive handling Delta’s foodservice called Reese to set up the arrangement between Delta and Pike Place Fish, which formally started a few weeks ago. Now, on its first-class flights in the Pacific Northwest, Delta is offering meals that feature foods from Pike Place Fish including wild salmon, wild shrimp and other products.

Delta’s interest in Pike Place is part of its larger strategy to focus on serving local, emblematic foods to its premium customers. As part of its rollout, Delta is also featuring foods emblematic of the Pacific Northwest, including offerings from Pike Place Chowder, The Pike Brewing Co., Le Panier Bakery and other local businesses.

“Fresh, local and sustainable are core tenets of Pacific Northwest cuisine and Delta’s onboard food and beverage program, and that’s precisely the philosophy we follow with our new menus,” Medeiros said.

Reese said a main tenet of Pike Place’s agreement with Delta was that it use primarily local, or at least American-sourced, seafood for its menus. Currently, Pike Place is supplying Delta with peeled and deveined 26/30s wild Gulf shrimp, Oregon Bay shrimp, five-ounce coho salmon fillets, its smoked sockeye salmon candy and one of its seafood seasoning blends.

“We really convinced them to go with a U.S., wild shrimp,” Reese said. “Most companies sell farm-raised shrimp from Vietnam, Thailand or China and the practices on farm-raised shrimp [can be] pretty horrendous. It was important to us that, if our name was going to be on the menu, we use a sustainable, wild domestic shrimp.”

While Delta could buy farmed shrimp at a much lower price per pound, the airline’s executives “were open to all the input we had on sustainable seafood and fishing practices,” Reese said.

Since the partnership is still new, Reese isn’t sure how much seafood Delta will buy on a regular basis. However, Delta just placed three orders in less than a week, showing their initial commitment to the partnership.

To fulfill Delta’s orders, Pike Place delivers its seafood – frozen – to Delta’s catering company, in an effort to ensure the seafood will be handled correctly.
“Shipping fresh, never frozen, seafood to a caterer is almost impossible,” Reese explained.

For Pike Place Fish, the new arrangement with Delta is just the latest of a concerted effort by the retailer to expand its business beyond its bricks-and-mortar business.

First, the market actively and successfully pursued seafood sales via its own website. Then it became one AmazonFresh’s first partners. Now, it sells 40 different fresh seafood items and shelf-stable items, such as seasonings, via AmazonFresh daily.

“This place is really hard to get to. It’s in downtown Seattle, tucked in the corner. Some people will not [buy from us] unless we go through AmazonFresh,” said Justin Hall, an assistant manager at Pike Place Fish.

Many of the items, such as Dungeness crab, are delivered cooked and ready-to-eat. In addition, Pike Place Fish now distributes some of its cooked and prepared products, including salmon burgers, crab cakes and crab cocktail, to about 500 Safeway stores.

“We are not selling any fresh seafood at the grocery store. We sell stuff that we feel confident in that we can have in our hands every day, such as spices, sauces and smoked salmon,” Hall said.

Contributing Editor

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