Trans-Ocean dominates surimi category, despite strong pollock prices
Trans-Ocean Products continues to be a leader in United States branded surimi/imitation crab category with innovative packaging design and new product rollouts.
Despite facing higher pollock prices, the Bellingham, Washington-based supplier, owned by Japan-based Maruha Nichiro, has not seen any impact to its business, Lou Shaheen, vice president of sales and marketing for Trans-Ocean, told SeafoodSource.
Stronger pollock prices are due to increased “demand around the world for surimi,” Shaheen said. And, while Trans-Ocean does pay market prices for the fish, it is generally able to handle price hikes.
“We have had spikes before. When the raw material price goes up, it is hard to get away from it,” Shaheen said. In addition to becoming more efficient in its production processes, the suppler sometimes has to raise prices when bidding on new contracts.
However, surimi is “still a relatively inexpensive product, so we haven’t seen it have an impact on sales,” Shaheen said.
In addition, the healthy attributes of seafood are leading more consumers to the category. Plus, the “new attention being paid to sustainability and overall environmental impacts are putting seafood in a strong position relative to other proteins,” Shaheen said.
Surimi seafood stock keeping units (SKUs) account for 22 percent of sales in the refrigerated category and brings shoppers to retailers’ seafood departments, he stressed. Trans-Ocean’s products are outselling smoked salmon SKUs, according to Shaheen.
Trans-Ocean consistently works on innovative ways to get more consumers to try surimi - including adding new flavors, switching to clean labels, improving packaging, and adding convenience.
“We are seeing increased sales on smaller package sizes and ‘grab and go’ convenience items. Affordability is also a key attribute for surimi products,” Shaheen said.
To that end, Trans-Ocean is launching another SKU in its popular Seafood Snackers line: Simply Surimi Seafood Snackers, a high-protein, gluten-free, all-natural, non-GMO snack product. The 3-ounce Snackers package, which features eight grams of protein per serving, will be available in stores later this year.
“Customers have been telling us they want the clean label alternative, so this product is MSC-certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, and American Heart Association-certified,” Shaheen said.
The current Snackers’ products, priced at USD 1 (EUR .90) each, have been on the market around six years.
“Our Seafood Snackers SKU that we rolled out six years ago is now the number one (unit sales) item in the refrigerated seafood category and still growing,” Shaheen said.
Trans-Ocean is still determining the price on the new Snackers product.
“It is different because it is non-GMO, cleaner label, and higher protein,” Shaheen said.
Trans-Ocean is also going to offer a Snackers club pack, which will include six Snackers. In a test in a club store chain, the club pack has performed “really well”, Shaheen said
Shaheen also believes surimi growth has come from Trans-Ocean’s renewed focus on consumer marketing, including offering new recipes and usage ideas, “which we communicate in advertising on on social media,” he said. Trans-Ocean hired a firm to “bring us new recipes and photography” for its web site, social media channels, and digital promotions.
“We’ve also embraced digital promotions as a strategy to generate sales among new, younger consumers. Our digital promotional campaigns with retailers and nationally have been over-performing our estimates again this year,” Shaheen said.
Photo courtesy of Trans-Ocean