On the spot: Price Chopper’s sustainability pledge

Published on
August 16, 2010

Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper has been focused on carrying sustainable seafood for a few years now and recently became the first U.S. retailer to carry farmed sea bream. The sea bream, which is popular in Mediterranean countries, is produced by Local Ocean in Hudson, N.Y. Local Ocean is using a contained, closed-loop water system to produce the fish, which is delivered to six Price Chopper stores in New York. Price Chopper, which operates about 128 stores in the Northeast, is selling the unique item for USD 9.99 per pound.

SeafoodSource recently talked to Lee French, Price Chopper’s VP of seafood merchandising, about the new sea bream and Price Chopper’s sustainability efforts.

Blank: How long have you been working to get the sea bream in Price Chopper stores?
French:
I have been working on this for over two months. This is the first time anyone has seen anything like this [in U.S. grocery stores]. Sea bream was available at the prime restaurants in Albany, N.Y., for example, but now it is more accessible at the local grocery store. The sea bream just broke last Wednesday, and we have had some great feedback already from our guests. Sales are right about where I would expect.

How are you promoting the sea bream and educating American consumers about its flavor and preparing it?
We received fabulous press coverage, and we have in-case signage, which talks about Local Ocean and the sustainability of the fish. We have done sampling and are providing recipes. We had Noah Sheetz, the executive chef at the New York governor’s office, develop the recipes — one that is a grilling recipe and another for baking.

What other fish do you plan to sell from Local Ocean? Will you expand the sea bream program to other stores?
Fluke will be the next available item from Local Ocean. We are running the sea bream in six stores, and we will evaluate it as we go.

What other sustainability initiatives has Price Chopper developed?
It is something we believe in as a company. We look daily at sustainable fish opportunities, through the Marine Stewardship Council and the Food Marketing Institute’s Seafood Sustainability Working Group. We also work with the Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC) and various fisheries commissioners, who represent the countries from which we source product. For the past couple of years, we have been selling Price Chopper private label bagged shrimp, which is certified by the ACC. We have increased our specifications when we are sourcing shrimp.

What are you doing to ensure that you are buying quality, sustainable seafood?
I was in Thailand two-and-a-half months ago, assuring that the [ACC] certification was being met at the plants. We actually showed a picture of me in Thailand in an ad. We want to be accountable, as we should be. Years ago, you could differentiate yourself by having a clean store. Now, things such as great service and having items in stock are expected. What is coming next is sustainability. Guests will make the assumption that it [sustainability] is what you are doing.

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