Bristol Seafood banking on innovation to overcome frozen seafood sales decline

Published on
November 29, 2022
The new building purchased by Bristol Seafoods in Portland Maine.

Bristol Seafood said its profits are up due its heightened focus on value-added seafood, and as a result executives at the Portland, Maine, U.S.A.-based supplier expect continued strong sales throughout December and in 2023.

The positive performance comes amid economic headwinds and sales declines for the overall seafood industry. However, Bristol President and CEO Peter Handy said he expects the company to continue on a positive trajectory. 

“Most of our customers have grown this year and we expect that strength to continue during the holiday period,” Handy said.

Handy said the company is “well-positioned to be a part of the long-term trend we see of growth in seafood consumption."

Contributing to Bristol’s growth is the launch of new value-added products throughout the year, and the opening of an additional processing facility this spring. The new facility, a few hundred feet away from Bristol’s current facility, is devoted to producing the company’s My Fish Dish, Seafood Singles, and Grab and Go product ranges.

"The additional space brings more capacity and automation to our growing retail business while also creating space in our original facility to support the expanding needs of our foodservice and contract manufacturing partners,”  Bristol Seafood Chief Operating Officer Brett Heidtke said in a press release when announcing the new plant.

The company’s My Fish Dish and Seafood Singles product lines grew 150 percent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2022, Bristol Vice President of Marketing Iréne Moon told SeafoodSource. The My Fish Dish range, launched in 2019 with 18 packaged seafood items, has seen even greater success, according to Moon, as the Covid-19 pandemic increased the amount of consumers cooking at home.

In early 2021, Bristol added its Grab and Go retail range, which showcases “quality seafood in a contemporary format aimed at delighting the evolving retail seafood consumer,” Bristol said. The line includes line-caught Alaska cod and farmed Atlantic salmon.

In summer 2022, Bristol launched a cedar plank Atlantic salmon line “to help consumers get fish on the grill,” Moon said. Flavors include Maple Bourbon and Teriyaki. It also debuted new My Fish Dish flavors – Spicy Ginger Shrimp, Sesame Miso Butter Cod, and Sesame Teriyaki Atlantic salmon.

“These new items appeal to all sorts of consumers: grillers, the adventure-seeker, and consumers who prefer a more familiar experience. We think this diversity of approach is what makes our products resonate with shoppers; There’s the right item to help everyone enjoy seafood meals more often,” Moon said.

Moon acknowledged sales of frozen seafood have declined in the U.S. as inflation has forced the prices of many products higher, but said the industry has a positive long-term outlook, as during the pandemic, U.S. consumers learned to cook seafood at home, and now they're also remembering how much they love to eat it at restaurants.

“We see sales decline in the retail sales channel overall, which is happening while inflation is also occurring. That said, our perspective is the decline in retail has more to do with a shift to foodservice than consumers balking at seafood prices,” she said. “Our industry has made leaps forward in product quality and innovation in the last few years. We are proud to be a member of the seafood industry and believe that, despite some near-term challenges, the industry's best years are ahead of it."

Those near-term challenges, Moon said, include the same supply chain and inflationary pressures faced across many other industries. 

"Pricing is a persistent challenge in the seafood industry, and recent ingredient and supply chain inflation is unprecedented,” Moon said. “We’re focused on ensuring shoppers see value in our products, and we are careful never to sacrifice our quality standards to provide a cheaper product.”

The company expects to launch new products in the spring of 2023.

“We are always working on new products and innovations,” Moon said.

Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource

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