Sitka Salmon Shares looks to grow market for community supported fisheries
Community supported fishery Sitka Salmon Shares, which specializes in frozen Alaskan fish and shellfish, is expanding both its residential and wholesale business.
After expanding its delivery network – as well as adding FedEx delivery in certain states – home delivery to its residential members is now around 80 percent of Sitka’s total sales.
“We already have multiple facilities we can ship out of, and the staff in place to do that. It was a matter of getting boxes that work and the right insulation,” Marsh Skeele, co-founder and vice president of Sitka, Alaska-based Sitka Salmon Shares, told SeafoodSource.
Last year, the company added its third location in Schaumburg, Illinois, in addition to its Sitka processing facility and its Galesberg, Illinois, distribution center. At the Galesberg facility, Sitka expanded freezer space, so it can now hold around 100,000 pounds of frozen seafood, and its newest facility in Schaumburg is around 1,000 square feet, with 200 square feet of freezer space.
“Chicago is our fastest-growing market, and, because it is such a big place geographically, it is impossible to drive to from other cities,” Skeele said.
Sitka delivers to residences and wholesale customers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. It also recently added FedEx two-day ground delivery, available as far east as New York and then down the east coast to Georgia, as well as most of the Southeast U.S., including Texas.
Membership in the CSF has grown to around 2,600 last year, composed of customers who want to know where their food comes from and who support sustainable fishing, Skeele said.
“We are telling the story of small scale fishermen-owners, who are conducting these environmentally low-impact fisheries,” he said. “They feel like they are connected to these fishermen, plus [they like] our quality.”
Sitka also provides extensive education on how to cook seafood, including recipe cards and a recent promotion in which Skeele visited customers’ homes and cooked seafood dinners with them. Last October, the CSF offered to cook dinner in customers’ homes via an email promotion and received an overwhelming response. Since then, Skeele has visited 75 customers’ homes.
The company also expects its wholesale sales to restaurants, retailers and community-supported agriculture organizations (CSAs) to double by the end of this year. Now at around 10 percent of its business, that segment is increasing because of the “growing demand for knowing where your food comes from,” Skeele said.
“Also, we are now able to source some unique products that are really well-suited for chefs, such as pressure-bled, frozen-at-sea salmon,” Skeele said. “We can dial in our quality and get products that chefs are excited about.”
Sitka provides spot prawns, halibut, rockfish, ling cod, and other seafood from fishermen in Alaska. It is seeking additional Alaskan fishermen – who are also owners in the company – to be a part of the CSF.
“We are definitely looking into expanding to other fishermen around the state of Alaska who don't have a marketplace for their fish,” Skeele said.