Frozen premium seafood line debuts in Midwest, East Coast retailers
Even as some large grocery chains are reducing the number of different frozen products they carry, many retailers are still seeking new frozen seafood meals, portions, and other items.
Sales of frozen seafood products increased faster than all other frozen food categories for the week ending 24 May, 2020, compared to a year ago, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) data presented by 210 Analytics Principal Anne-Marie Roerink.
Frozen seafood sales surged 62.6 percent for the week ending on 24 May, while volume increased 55.7 percent.
Capitalizing on the trend, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.-based Wixter Seafood’s new frozen portion seafood line is getting pickup from regional retailers. Wixter, which operates a sustainable seafood shop in Chicago, partnered with Hofseth North America to distribute its line – which includes Norwegian salmon, mahi from Ecuador, Alaskan halibut, U.S. wild shrimp and scallops, and New Zealand orange roughy. Recently, it formed a partnership with Fortune Fish and Gourmet to distribute its line in the Midwest as the company's first asset-based distributor.
This month, Rochester, New York-based Wegmans Food Markets will begin carrying some of the frozen products, along with Chicago-based Local Foods, Standard Market, and Olivia’s Market, among others.
In July, all independent and corporate-owned stores of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based SpartanNash will start carrying the products and Grand Rapids-based Meijer stores will add them in August.
While Wixter has experienced some delays and reductions in the number of SKUs (stock-keeping units) launched per retailer, “smaller regional and independents have flocked to the program as something new and exciting to offer their customers in a time when consumers are craving both as home chefs,” Wixter Founder/Owner Matt Mixter told SeafoodSource.
“Our supply chain transparency, packaging, and focus on the quality in the frozen bag has resulted in quick repeat purchases that we are very encouraged by,” he added.
Wixter started Winter Market as a passion project after witnessing the “extreme amounts of unnecessary waste and cost associated with the industry’s standard approach,” Wixter said in a press release. “Beyond reducing its own carbon footprint, its second layer of activism lies within Mixter’s vision to educate its customers on the seafood supply chain as a whole.”
Wixter specializes in restaurant-grade, flash-frozen products, exclusively packaging prime cuts. The majority of its items are 6.25-ounce individually quick-frozen portions in vacuum-sealed bags, ranging from USD 8.99 (EUR 8.01) to USD 12.99 (EUR 11.58) each. Some premium seafood is priced higher.
It will also add a ready-to-eat line including Norwegian shrimp, cooked lobster meat, smoked salmon, and steelhead trout this fall.
Stemming from years of high-end seafood procurement, the brand’s ethos is inspired by Mixter’s long-standing relationships with several suppliers.
“We source all products directly from the producers on every SKU to ensure a long term, sustainable business model. Given the marginal nature and need to hit specific retail price points, there just isn’t any room or reason for additional layers of cost,” Mixter said.
Namingo Hofseth International, Wood's Fisheries, Sanford Limited, and Australia's Clean Seas as suppliers, Mixter said the company “scours the globe to partner with the world’s most trustworthy fishmongers and bring sustainably harvested seafood to markets throughout North America, where it is sustainably sold.”
“Wixter Seafood gives a voice to the honorable seafood producers at the forefront of innovation,” he added.
While fresh seafood, particularly from Europe, is “very expensive” due to high air freight costs, the actual cost of fish has decreased, Mixter said.
“That creates a perfect opportunity for frozen to shine bright. High-end species like halibut, Chilean seabass, sea scallops, etc., that were heavily concentrated on foodservice have come down in value – in some cases by 30 percent – so they’re getting into a price point where volumes sold into retail can be exciting.”
Photo courtesy of Wixter