Icelandic seafood supplier Niceland grows US distribution with new team
After quickly growing its distribution of fresh, premium Icelandic seafood regionally, Niceland is looking to expand to retailers, wholesale companies, and restaurants across the United States at Seafood Expo North America 2019, taking place in Boston, Massachusetts from 17 to 19 March.
Niceland supplies wild-caught haddock, cod, ocean perch, wolffish, flounder, cusk, pollock, and farmed raised Arctic charr that is flown fresh directly from Iceland.
The supplier first partnered with Seattle Fish in Denver, Colorado to distribute to King Soopers stores. Now, its sustainable, fully-traceable line is featured in more than 50 King Soopers and City Market stores.
After the companies that formed Niceland, EFNI and Iceland-based international investment company Eyrir Invest, acquired two Icelandic fish exporters last summer, Niceland gained a more consistent supply so it could expand to additional distributors and retailers, Oliver Luckett, founder and chairman of Niceland, told SeafoodSource.
As a result, Chicago-based distributor Fortune Fish, and Florida- and Texas-based distributor Halperns’ Steak and Seafood came on board earlier this year. Niceland fish is now carried at Metcalfe’s Markets, Busch’s Markets, and through Peapod grocery delivery. It will soon launch in Truluck’s Steak and Seafood throughout the Midwest and Southeast United States.
Niceland plans to expand to other retailers and restaurant groups in those regions as its distribution network grows.
“Niceland is a brand that has a competitive edge because we have incredible fish, a fascinating product story, tied through technology to make a connection with the customer, and the values of sustainability that we share,” Luckett said.
Luckett attributes “serendipity” for how the supplier’s North American team came together.
Early in the company’s development, Luckett received an Instagram message from Arnie Dzelzkalns, former director of seafood with Halpern’s Steak and Seafood of South Florida and now Niceland’s U.S. director of operations and production.
“He was fascinated by our business and clearly had a lot of experience in the industry. Heida [Helgadottir, partner and CEO of Niceland] and I met Arnie in Iceland and were totally in sync about the way in which seafood consumption and distribution needs to evolve,” Luckett said.
Then, Dzelzkalns urged Luckett to meet with Meghan Russell, previously national sales and marketing manager for Baja Seas Hiramasa and founder of Pearl Oceans, a firm designed to sell and market innovative aquaculture products. Russell quickly came on board as Niceland’s U.S. director of strategy and sales.
Niceland rounded out the team with Patrick Dunaway, formerly a national sales manager for Pure Fish, as its U.S. Sustainability Director and William (Billy) Polo, formerly with Seamax Global, who heads up Niceland’s U.S. logistics, inventory management, and quality assurance.
“The powers of collaboration and connection are what I see as the wave of the future for the seafood industry. Our North American team is focused on establishing trust and demand,” Luckett said. “They’re part of the millennial generation who value transparency, sustainability, and innovation—just like their millennial peers who are informed consumers and purchase seafood they can trust.”
Russell, Dzelzkalns, and Dunaway all met early in their careers while working as regional sales managers for Open Blue Cobia. They met Polo while selling cobia to Nagle Seafood. They all bonded over a shared passion of wanting to help usher in progress through transparency and sustainability in the seafood industry as it transitions in the twenty-first century, Russel said.
Niceland’s “sea-to-pan” traceability tech allows consumers to follow the detailed journey of their fish. Using a scannable QR code, they can trace the timeline from the exact spot in the North Atlantic Ocean where the fish was caught to the name of the boat that reeled it in. They can see which processing plant filleted the fish, the flight details from Iceland to any city in the U.S., and view the truck that delivered it to the store.
“Technology is at our core,” says Luckett. “When Heida and I first started talking together about starting Niceland, we knew that technology was the key to ensure distribution of the freshest product, and a way to connect a jumbled, antiquated industry and open up a multi-billion dollar resource. Technology through our traceable QR code is a way to connect the consumer directly with Iceland and provide a backstory to products they are purchasing,” Luckett said.
Niceland is displaying at SENA 2019 at Booth #3357, where Icelandic Chef Gunnar Karl Gíslason will be preparing Icelandic-inspired samples.