Exclusive: Cooke to unveil innovative seafood lines at SENA

Emerging seafood giant Cooke Aquaculture will feature new products from many of its newly acquired companies at Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, taking place 19 to 21 March.

While many of the new lines are geared toward the North American market, the global seafood company is expanding its sales in several countries, including China and Brazil, which will help contribute to a projected CAD 2 billion (USD 1.5 billion, EUR 1.4 billion) in global seafood sales in 2017.

Cooke, based in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada, is expanding its product lines beyond farmed salmon, thanks to several of the new companies it acquired the past two years, including Icicle Seafoods, which it purchased in early 2016.

“Our heritage was with farmed Atlantic salmon, but with recent acquisitions, we are trying to move the company from a salmon company to a seafood company. We offer a wide range of seafood – including shrimp, scallops and cod – all in one place,” Andrew Young, senior vice president of sales at Cooke, told SeafoodSource in an exclusive interview.

In 2015, Cooke acquired Suffolk, Virginia-based Wanchese Fish Co., which processes scallops, shrimp and other seafood. Then, in late 2016, Cooke snapped up Uruguayan seafood firm Fripur, a supplier of red crab and wild hake, and Argentinean hake fishing company Grinfin.

“During a transition period, typically the companies operate separately, but our goal is to amalgamate the businesses and drive efficiencies,” Young said.

At SENA, True North Seafood will unveil a line of refrigerated, portioned wild salmon (thanks to Icicle) along with Atlantic salmon, cod and other whitefish, and scallops in skin-pack trays for retail. The target price is under CAD 10 (USD 7.65, EUR 7.22) for 400 to 500 gram packages that serve two to three people per serving.

“With the skin-pack technology, the idea is to preserve the freshness of the fresh seafood offerings and have it in a way that makes it very easy for consumers to reconstitute when they get home,” Young said.

True North is also launching True North Grillers, a line of refrigerated, seasoned wild salmon, Atlantic salmon, black cod and other fish, at SENA.

“This is a line really targeted toward barbecue season,” Young said. “Consumers will be able to go to the supermarket and able to throw [the fish] on the grill without a lot of work.”

True North will also unveil True North Toppers – hot smoked salmon that can be used as a garnish, or “topper,” for salads, pizzas, pastas and other dishes. The innovative product will be featured in the produce departments and other areas of United States supermarket chains, not just in the fresh seafood departments.

“This speaks to driving traffic in the seafood category by bringing in new products and new consumers,” Young said.

While the new acquisitions bring new seafood lines, farmed salmon is still Cooke’s top seller, according to Young.

“We continue to invest more in technology on the farming side than we do on the expansion of farms,” he said. “We look at how we can get more out of the sites we have today.”

For example, Cooke is investing millions of dollars in new, automated feeding systems to help it realize efficiencies in its operations.

While its headquarters are in New Brunswick, Cooke also has operations in the United States, Chile, Argentina, and throughout Europe. It also operates sales offices in Tokyo and Paris.

Cooke has realized “phenomenal growth” in China, selling close to CAD 90 million (USD 68.9 million, EUR 64.5 million) worth of seafood in the country last year.

“That’s up signficinatly from a couple of years ago. We have really grown in that market and added new customers,” Young said.
The company also realized “big growth” in Brazil in 2016.

“As that market continues to grow, we continue to expand our product offerings there,” Young said.

As for future growth, Cooke “continues to grow organically and through acquisitions,” Young said.

“There will be future acquisitions, but I can’t comment on specifics," he said.


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