St. James Smokehouse wins big by trying something new

It was the search for something different, something new, that led Brendan Maher and the business he co-owns, St. James Smokehouse, to the concept for Saint Pure Salmon – the company’s award-winning product that continued to score accolades this week at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, Belgium. 

The Annan, Scotland and Miami, Florida, U.S.A.-based St. James Smokehouse produces a variety of smoked salmon products, among them Saint Pure Salmon, which took home the Seafood Excellence Award for “Best New Retail” in March during the 2019 Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. As of Tuesday, 7 May, the product received the Seafood Excellence Global special award for “Retail Packaging.” These latest successes for the product serve as reinforcement that the pursuit of something unique is worthwhile in the world of smoked salmon, Maher told SeafoodSource.

“I wanted to try something new. I’ll fall flat on my face trying to do something different, and I’ve got no one else to blame them but myself then, and I’m totally happy with that,” as long as it’s in pursuit of a fresh vision, he added. 

Many of Saint Pure Salmon’s components bring a fresh perspective to the well-established smoked salmon market segment. For one, the product is smoked with Florida orange and grapefruit wood, a over-abundant resource in Florida not often utilized by any industry, let alone the seafood sector, Maher said.  

“Florida is one of the biggest citrus-growing areas in the world, so they have millions of pounds of orange-wood, grapefruit-wood, lemon wood, that they don’t know what to do with, it has zero value [to them]. I’m in Miami, I’m in Florida, so I can repurpose that so it’s locally-sourced. It’s repurposing something that has no other use and there’s an abundance of it, so that’s where that idea comes from,” he explained. “The citrus growers have this adage that the tree should expend its energy growing fruit and not wood, so they continue to prune the canopy to a like a 12- to 15-foot diameter, leaving them with millions and millions of pounds worth of citrus wood."

The way St. James Smokehouse renders its Saint Pure Salmon is also novel in its approach and patience, Maher noted, drawing out the smoking timeframe to create a flavor profile with layers of citrusy nuance.

“Historically, seafood is seen as the fresher the better, and that is absolutely the truth – apart from smoked salmon. Because I can produce a product of smoked salmon in 24 hours, but it doesn’t taste as good as when I salt it for 23 hours, wash it off, leave it for 23 hours, then smoke it for 7 or 12 hours, and then – after smoking it – leave it for another day to let all the smoke and the salt fully permeate all the way through,” he said. 

Using its expertise and heritage, St. James Smokehouse set out to create its Saint Pure Salmon as a product that “stands as a symbol for the new generation of smoked salmon buyers and consumers,” according to a press release from the company. Maher and the firm wanted to produce something that not only tasted special, but looked special as well, leading to the product’s contemporary black package featuring a soft touch finish and informative infographics, all designed to attract a younger demographic. 

“I was tired of every food product having a square window or a rectangular window. It was time for someone to do something else,” Maher said. 

A geometric shape comprised of small holes embossed on the front of Saint Pure Salmon’s packaging gives consumers a slight inkling of the product within, as well as how it was made, according to Maher. 

“In Scotland, in the smokehouse, and in Miami, I’ve got exactly the same smoker,” he said. “So the burner, where you actually burn the wood, has got this pattern on it on a steel plate. It’s got this geometric pattern, so I kind of honed in on that. That’s the point where the salmon ceases to be fresh salmon – it’s the point of no return, where it becomes smoked salmon. That place, the reason it’s got holes in it, is because fire needs oxygen.”   

Comprised of Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)-certified, sushi-grade Atlantic salmon that is cured with sea salt and brown sugar, Saint Pure Salmon doesn’t seek to “be all things to all men,” Maher said, but it’s certainly meant to attract consumers who value creativity and quality in seafood. The product is free of growth hormones, artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors, and is sliced vertically, sashimi-style, creating bite-sized portions.

“The whole design, the logo, everything, it’s all done in house. I’ve managed to combine what I’m educated in with food manufacturing and building the brand – a great brand of products,” Maher said, harkening back to what he declared in Boston in March: "We’re confident in the product that we’ve created. Everything is done in-house – everything from the brand name, the trademark, the packaging, the concept, the Florida orange-wood, the Florida grapefruit wood, it’s all our brain-child."

Moving forward, Maher spoke of St. James’ plans to take sales of the product online. He said he is currently evaluating e-commerce platforms to determine the best placement option for the company and its unique approach to smoked salmon.


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