Kroger boost gave Two Fish jumpstart into seafood business

Two Fish Founder Yasmin Curtis (left) at Seafood Expo North America.

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.-based Two Fish Distribution made a big splash when it jumped into the seafood business in 2020.

It’s easy-to-use, frozen, one-pound Seafood Boil packages, dubbed “Two Fish To-Go,” were born out of the desperation felt by Yasmin Curtis as she was forced to shut down her Southside restaurant, Two Fish Crab Shack, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Launched at an outdoor neighborhood event featuring local vendors hosted by Mariano’s marketplace – a chain owned by the Kroger supermarket chain – Curtis sold all 100 of the packages she had brought to the event in less than 20 minutes.

The store directors came over to see what was going on, and the next day, the regional sales manager for the Roundy’s division came to the restaurant – came to the South side of Chicago to see what this new product was,” Curtis said.

The buyer invited Two Fish to conduct a trial of the product at four of its Chicago-area stores.

“Kroger, Roundy’s, and Mariano’s were very instrumental in giving us our start. They walked me through the whole process, they made sure our packaging was good,” Curtis told SeafoodSource. “Now that I've been in the industry for a long time, I realize what they did was kind of amazing. For a retailer that size to just kind of stick their neck out like they did, that’s unheard of.”

Two years since its founding, Two Fish is selling its Snow Crab Legs Bag, its Shrimp Bag, and its Shrimp and Snow Crab Legs Bag at more than 1,000 retail locations, including Kroger and Meijer outlets, primarily in the U.S. Midwest but now in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Southern California. Curtis said she’s working on three additional SKUs, including crawfish and mussels.

Curtis said she was surprised by the reception her company received in its inaugural appearance at Seafood Expo North America.

Being such a small company, it’s so exciting and humbling for us to be here. We had one of our competitors come over and tell us they wanted to check us out because we have a buzz. Seeing that they’re seeking us out, that is a pretty big deal. So I think we're doing okay, and we're going to be okay,” Curtis said.

While the company is still small, Curtis has big ambitions.

“My dream is for Two Fish to be present in every grocery store in the entire U.S. I want to be a household name like Pepsi or Coca Cola,” Curtis said. “Those are the heights that I feel like we can go to just based off of the products that we have.”

Despite the large goals, Curtis said she plans to continue to operate her Chicago restaurant.

“I like to talk to my customers and see what’s working with them. And my mother is in there telling people what to do – it keeps her occupied,” Curtis joked.

Curtis said she isn’t worried her seafood boils are a trendy fad that might lose popularity once they’ve had their moment.

“Whether it's hot or not, once it's in the grocery and retail outlets, it will always be a consistent thing,” she said. "As long as we're consistent, we will last forever.”

That consistency stretches to maintaining the quality of her products, Curtis said. And that requires “constant vigilance"

Photo courtesy of Cliff White/SeafoodSource

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