Newly formed Dutch Seafood Company turns focus to USA

Dutch Seafood Company has set its sights on expanding further into the United States market, U.S. sales director Remko Vedder told SeafoodSource at the 2019 Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

The Harderwijk, The Netherlands-based company, which was formed in August 2018 out of a merger between shrimp specialist Klaas Puul and Foppen – which focused on smoked products made from Norwegian salmon, rainbow trout, and sockeye salmon – exhibited at SENA for the first time this year, and with the new U.S.-focused initiative, Vedder said it was “the perfect time for us to enter Boston.”

“With Foppen, we are already quite established in the smoked salmon sector in the U.S., but now it’s time to introduce people to the new company,” he said.

A longtime vendor of smoked salmon products to Costco and Kroger, Vedder said the company plans to bring more salmon products to market in the U.S. and will introduce value-added products made with tropical shrimp in the third or fourth quarter of 2019.

“What we see the American market missing is good concepts. It is very big on shrimp, but it’s all bulk, bulk, bulk,” he said. “We have a very strong product development team and they are working full power on new, interesting items made with shrimp designed for the U.S. market.”

While Klaas Puul had very little coverage in the U.S., the new larger company will be able to lean on Foppens’ extensive storage and distribution network in the U.S. to bring its new products to market, Vedder said. The company operates storage locations in New Jersey, Texas, Ohio, and California, he said.

“We want to establish a stronger footprint with retailers,” he said. “It’s easier with a larger product lines, as you’re already speaking to the buyers, and you can more easily interest them in new products and get them to do a test. For them, the delivery truck is already going there, so it’s easier to expand the line.”

Wilbert Vedder, the chief commercial officer for Dutch Seafood Company (and Remko’s brother), said the company’s position was strong even with the technical difficulty of the merger process.

“The merger was not borne out of any financial crisis – you had two financially healthy companies that saw the ability to do more by working together,” he said. "How what we are doing is building and investing for the future. And we have greater diversification of raw materials and therefore lower risks involved in buying raw materials.”

He said the company took time to properly integrate following the merger, eventually settling on a strategy of shifting shrimp production to take place entirely in its Volendam and Edam facilities and salmon and trout smoking in its Hardewijk and Preveza, Greece facilities.

“There were different factories with different strengths. We’ve made a lot of investment in equipment and the total rebuilding is finished now – they are a now up and running,” he said. “The shift will be big from a quality point of view, and it will be easier for us to be able to supply to all our retailers and foodservice customers with the new setup.”

Additionally, the Edam factory that formerly belonged to Klaas Puul was recently awarded International Featured Standards (IFS) certification less than a month ago, Vedder said.

In realigning the two companies into one, “We tried to maximize the strengths of both companies,” Wilbert Vedder said. “We had a very strong salmon player and very strong shrimp player, and they had many of the same buyers all over the world, though Klaas Puul was very strong in Europe and Foppen was very strong in Europe and the U.S. As a result of this merger, we have a very healthy customer base and wider than before. We’ve found it’s easier to introduce your products into big retailers if you do everything together.”

That intersection of customers is where Wilbert Vedder thinks Dutch Seafood Company’s greatest opportunity lies.

“One of the intentions of the merger was to do cross-selling and share concepts, so that we’re selling shrimp to salmon customers and vice versa. Foppen as a company was not unknown with shrimp and Klaas Puul was the same with salmon but it was not their focus,” he said. “But now we have a high-profile brand that can bring in a lot of attention, and that’s helping us rapidly expand distribution-wise.”

Wilbert Vedder said the company’s growth efforts were focused on getting its product into more retail locations.

“More pick-up is what we’re looking for,” he said. “Like Coca-Cola is everywhere, Foppen needs to be everywhere. We will not rest until we are in every supermarket you walk into.”

His brother Remko agreed, with the added detail that the company sought geographic and new sector growth in addition to more coverage in the markets it already served. China in particular represented a growth opportunity, he said. The company already operates a sales office in Shanghai and has four salespeople dedicated to the Chinese market. And it has made two new hires to serve the U.S. market, with Jeff Pearsall recently named senior marketing manager for the West Coast and Regina Jones hired as marketing manager West Coast.

The company is versatile enough to handle the challenge of serving the particular needs and desires of multiple markets, Remko Vedder said.

“Yes, it requires different concepts to satisfy different taste preferences. We always look at each individual market as unique, but sometimes we are able to copy what we are doing and just make some small tweaks.”

Foodservice also represents an opportunity, he said.

“We need to dive into foodservice with our premium brands,” he said.

But it’s the U.S. market that Dutch Seafood Company prizes most of all, he said. 

 “It’s a huge market, and we only need a slice of it,” he said. 


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