Chicken of the Sea is betting big on value-added shrimp

A Crispy Stuffed Shrimp appetizer line is among Chicken of the Sea’s new product launches.

Chicken of the Sea has announced the launch of several new products into U.S. foodservice and retail channels, centering on shrimp and crab. 

The Thai Union Group-owned seafood giant has debuted a line of seven frozen value-added shrimp products, along with crab cakes.

Its new Crispy Stuffed Shrimp appetizer line is available in three flavors: Creamy Wonton, Creamy Jalapeno, and Creamy Garlic and Spinach. New breaded shrimp items include Perfectly Crisp Shrimp, Maple Sriracha Shrimp, Nashville Hot Shrimp, and Buttermilk Ranch Shrimp.

Shrimp prices have recently strengthened due to a variety of COVID-related issues, but has not been as affected by "the record-high price increases we’re seeing in so many other species and proteins," Thai Union North America President and CEO Bryan Rosenberg said in an interview with SeafoodSource. 

"It’s still a relative value and quite affordable," he said.

Chicken of the Sea decided to focus on shrimp for the new line after extensive consumer research and feedback from retail and foodservice customers on “white space” in the category, Rosenberg said.

“At the moment, we are seeing tremendous market penetration and growth within the value-added frozen shrimp category – USD 200 million [EUR 165 million], with 33 percent growth in retail – and a strong emphasis on convenient seafood,” Rosenberg said, referring to IRI Worldwide data for the 52 weeks ending 6 September, 2020. 

The company’s research found that consumers are eating seafood more often because they want to eat less meat and they like the taste, according to Rosenberg. In addition, after a year of isolating at home, consumers “are looking to replicate a restaurant experience by duplicating their favorite out-of-home meal experiences.”

Thai Union brought together innovation teams from both Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods (COSFF) and Chicken of the Sea International (COSI) to develop new the flavors used in the launch. They investigated “how to best service the spike in the retail marketplace and the reemerging, though altered, foodservice business,” Rosenberg said.

“A key insight we noticed in retail is that shrimp had limited flavor variety beyond traditional breaded and battered and coconut, leaving an opening for us to push the category forward with indulgent flavors and unique breading systems or applications,” Rosenberg said.

While the market “typically prizes traditional Mexican, Italian, and Chinese flavors above all else,” there is an increasing demand for diverse offerings as restaurants and retailers work to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace, according to Rosenberg. And the U.S. market is increasingly preferring more spice, pushed by younger consumers Rosenberg said.

“Over the past decade, this [trend] has only grown, and it serves as a positive indicator for future international cuisine growth,” Rosenberg said. “With steadily increased spending power, we see these younger consumers speeding up the rate of adoption across international cuisines in the U.S."

The shrimp for the new products is sourced globally and features a minimum Best Aquaculture Practices two-star rating. Its Crispy Stuffed Shrimp line is made by hand and manufactured in one of Thai Union’s facilities in Thailand. The company is also sourcing the shrimp for the line in Thailand, a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch yellow-rated (or good alternative) region.

“As the largest shrimp importer in the U.S., we have a significant footprint sourcing from farms across Asia and Latin America. We’ve recently reinvested our sustainability efforts by partnering with NGOs like the Monterey Bay Aquarium,” Rosenberg said. ”Our primary goal in these areas is to connect local communities, industries, and government offices in a united effort to improve the environment and social performance of farmed shrimp, thus ensuring equity in the supply chain.”

Rosenberg expects the lines to be successful in both the retail and foodservice channels. 

As for its crab cakes, Rosenberg said Chicken of the Sea's expertise and history of sourcing blue swimming crab, and the species' growing popularity among U.S. consumers, encouraged the company to pursue the development of the new product.

“Moving into the value-added space with a consumer favorite was a clear growth opportunity,” Rosenberg said.

Chicken of the Sea was a founding member of the National Fisheries Institute Crab Council and is “committed to sustainability in this important category,” Rosenberg added.

“With the brand recognition and 100-plus years of consumer marketing experience that Chicken of the Sea has built, and the strong experience in perishable categories of Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods – the number one supplier of shrimp in North America and market leader in multiple seafood product categories – we have enormous opportunity to leverage and integrate those strengths and grow the business,” Rosenberg said.

Photo courtesy of Chicken of the Sea


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