Phillips begins aggressive retail push with host of new products

Published on
October 29, 2020

Like most seafood processors, Baltimore, Maryland-based Phillips Foods was thrown a major curveball at the start of the COVD-19 pandemic.

The company was hit particularly hard by the forced closure and subsequent limitation of service at its seafood restaurants, as well as the curtailment of its business supplying crabmeat and other seafood to the foodservice sector. But Phillips has such a strong retail presence that it has been successful throughout this year, according to Phillips Vice President of Retail Sales and Marketing John Baxter.

“It has been a challenge,” Baxter told SeafoodSource. “But [our sales] to retail outlets have been able to offset the lack of foodservice sales. Between our retail and club side, we are having an outstanding 2020.”

Baxter said Phillips realized a 65 percent surge in retail sales of its appetizers for the 52 weeks ending 27 June. Phillips’ crab cake sales also soared 23 percent during the same time period, while retail crabmeat sales spiked 30 percent and soup sales rose 15 percent.

“Our appetizers have exploded. People are eating at home more and are looking for something quick and easy to throw in toaster oven for lunch,” Baxter said.

Some foodservice sales are starting to return as well, according to Baxter. “States that were aggressive [with restaurant closures] early are states that we flourish in,” Baxter said.

Reaching for even more retail success, Philips is launching 13 new products across its retail brands in the fourth quarter of this year and in the first quarter of 2021. Baxter acknowledged it was difficult to get grocery buyers to consider new products for the first few months of the pandemic, but he said the company is now seeing customers turn to new items to spice up their home-cooking routine.

“Across the store, there seems to be demand because of lack of innovation,” Baxter said. “The new items that are being brought out right now are down dramatically, so there is some level of frustration across the store for seeing new items.”

Phillips has always been known first and foremost as a crab purveyor, and while the new line of value-added frozen items include crabmeat, it is not the focus of the launch.

“We are trying to work with different proteins, not just crab, to diversify our product offerings,” Baxter said. “Our customers – especially the new ones – need to know that we are not just crabmeat and crab cakes. Phillips is a provider of a myriad of value-added seafood items.”

Retailers including Giant Food, Safeway, and Food Lion are already carrying Phillips’ new line of frozen Sea Burgers. The company describes its new Tuna Burger as an “on-trend alternative to traditional beef burgers, made with responsibly sourced, 100 percent ground yellowfin tuna and combined with select seasonings to create a ‘just off the grill’ flavor,” Philips said in a press release.

The other burger in the line is a Thai-Style Seafood Burger, which is made with ground shrimp, squid, octopus, and pollock and “accented by authentic Thai seasonings including ginger, coriander, and garlic,” Phillips said.

The company will also launch several soup products in the first quarter of 2021, none focused on crab. Phillips will be offering Seafood Cioppino with shrimp, clams, octopus, squid, and crab; Red Curry Seafood Soup with shrimp, clams, octopus, squid, and crab; and Manhattan Clam Chowder, featuring sea clams, russet potatoes, and other ingredients.


In Q1 2021, it is also rolling out Cajun Seafood Dip, which includes shrimp, clams, octopus, squid, and crab; and Chesapeake Crab Dip, which features crabmeat in a “rich blend of cheddar and parmesan cheeses with our own seafood seasoning adding a savory kick of Chesapeake-style flavor,” Phillips said.

The supplier is also debuting a new value-driven line of frozen seafood products called Waterman’s Reserve. The single-serve items, priced at USD 5.00 (EUR 4.28) each, are designed to appeal to customers looking for convenience at a reasonable price, Phillips said in a press release.

“We have seen retailers use USD 5.00 and USD 10.00 [EUR 8.57] programs in their bunkers. The thought process was, ‘let’s fit some items in the bunkers that wouldn’t take space away from what we have in the doors,’” Baxter said.

The first product in the line is Crab Cake Sliders, a 1.5-ounce slider with lumps of crabmeat in a traditional Maryland-style base of mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.

The other new Waterman’s Reserve product is Tuna Chili, which includes 100 percent pole-and-line caught yellowfin tuna and Great Northern beans.

Photos courtesy of Phillips Foods

Contributing Editor



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