Peter Pan retooling with commitment to value-added focus

Published on
April 6, 2022
On Monday, 4 April, Peter Pan announced Rich Wolverton has been hired as the company's new vice president of sales.

Peter Pan Seafood Company is continuing to retool its approach to market by retrofitting its processing facilities to produce more value-added products and making another new executive-level hire.

On 4 April, Peter Pan announced Rich Wolverton has been hired as the company's new vice president of sales. Wolverton’s foodservice distribution experience will help Peter Pan, which is based in Bellevue, Washington, U.S.A. and which operates its Alaska operations from an office in Anchorage, focus more on value-added products for retail and foodservice, according to Peter Pan Owner and Chief Growth Officer Rodger May.

“Rich’s experience in these areas will be invaluable and we couldn’t feel more excited and lucky to have him join our team,” May told SeafoodSource.

Wolverton’s first job in the seafood industry was at Peter Pan, and he then served stints in a sales position at Heritage Salmon, then as director of supplier relations and then vice president of category management at Food Services of America.

When that company was bought by US Foods, he started there as corporate category manager of seafood and poultry and was eventually promoted to vice president of category management. Wolverton launched his own consulting firm, Grow Foodservice, in July 2021 to assist companies in navigating the foodservice distribution space.

A surge in consumer demand for seafood during COVID-19 led Peter Pan to shift its focus to more value-added products made in the U.S. geared toward the retail and foodservice sectors.

"We have significantly moved away from a commodity company to a value-added company. We've already launched select value-added products such as new portion sizes,” May said.

To that end, it is retrofitting its one million square feet of production space to “meet today's needs, which are different from the old Peter Pan and our industry in general,” May said. The company is adding portioning machines and more vacuum packaging capacity.

“As we work with customers to meet their exact needs, there will be more new value-added products launching, including a planned frozen marinated product line we’re working on now,” May said.

Company executives have explored several different value-added product ideas, from skinless portions to smoked products, according to May.

“Ultimately, we want to deliver the high-quality, Alaska products our customers are looking for,” he said.

Peter Pan also plan to take a deep dive into fresh sales to restaurants, May told SeafoodSource last fall.

“We’re going to attempt to do something no one has ever done before and reach out to restaurants that would love to take, say, a 50-pound minimum once a week. We would take that fish right from a fishing boat in Valdez, put it on UPS, and have it to them in a place like Kansas City 24 to 48 hours after it was unloaded from a boat in Alaska,” May said.

May said the story of the fish Peter Pan sells will play a big role in its marketing efforts. A halibut fillet, for example, will arrive with documentation detailing when it was caught and by which boat, as well as a travel itinerary.

Wolverton’s experience fits perfectly into the supplier’s new focus on value-added products and foodservice, May said. In his new role, Wolverton will work with Peter Pan’s team to develop products and solutions for customers, “whether that’s the operator in health care, a restauranteur, everyday consumers” and others.

“When I first started at Peter Pan, I was at the beginning of my career, but this was always my dream job,” Wolverton said. “I couldn’t pass this opportunity up. I’m looking forward to working closely with the entire sales team to develop the team and the products into where we want to go.” 

Peter Pan also made significant changes last year when it moved its ownership back to the U.S. and announced that Barry Collier would step down as CEO.

It also hired several new executives, including former Silver Bay Seafoods COO Jon Hickman to serve as its vice president of Alaska operations. In March 2021, Peter Pan lured Kevin Larsen away from Bornstein Seafoods to serve as its vice president of international sales and business development, though Larsen returned to Bornstein Seafoods on 1 March, 2022. In June 2021, it hired Michael De Caro as its new vice president of retail sales and product development. Within the past year, the company made several additional hires to bolster to its finance, development, and sourcing teams.

“Since bringing ownership back to the U.S. in January 2021, we set our focus on building and developing a dynamic team of industry experts. And we've done that,” May said. "We’re proud of the caliber of talent we've onboarded thus far and are always looking for others who can strengthen our team. I'm thankful for the hard work and leadership all executives have brought, and continue to bring, to the company.”

Photo courtesy of Peter Pan Seafood

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