Trout specialist Riverence growing into mainstream seafood distributor
Boise, Idaho, U.S.A.-based Riverence Group, the largest land-based trout producer in the United States, is branching into selling other seafood species with the goal of becoming a mainstream seafood distributor.
Following its 2020 acquisition of Clear Springs Foods, Riverence now operates 14 trout farms with the capacity to produce more than 15,000 metric tons annually, in addition to four broodstock stations, two primary processing facilities, a value-added processing facility, a waste-recovery plant, and a feed mill. It also inherited Clear Springs’ nationwide trucking fleet and distribution network.
“We are a company in evolution,” Riverence Vice President of Sustainability Todd English told SeafoodSource. “Because we deliver to 90-plus fish houses twice a week [with our own fleet], we have been introducing other types of seafood to bring value to our customers.”
The company, backed by Hollywood producer David E. Kelley, struggled at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, laying off more than 150 employees and cutting salaries across the company by 25 percent, following a steep drop in foodservice sales. But over the past two years, an upswell in retail demand for trout has stabilized the company’s performance, English said.
“Trout sales have increased for both retail and foodservice over the past year,” English said. “People are starting to realize you can get the same health benefits [from trout] as eating other types of seafood, and it is a local U.S.A. product, which is a big thing for consumers.”
Trout prices have increased “in accordance with inflation,” but trout still compares favorably on price against skyrocketing salmon prices, English said.
“When people are looking to a healthier alternative to any other land-based protein, trout offers all those benefits at a price point that is key for consumers,” he said.
Jumping into the red-hot U.S. seafood market in the U.S., Riverence has expanded its offerings to include Superior Fresh salmon, Best Aquaculture Practices-certified shrimp from India, tuna products from Indonesia, pompano, ready-to-eat seafood meals, and a line of fresh sturgeon. It also carries retail bags of haddock, ocean perch, and cooked octopus legs. While it is currently selling the seafood under brand names, Riverence will provide them via private label over time, according to English. It will also expand into other seafood categories in the near future.
“At present, we are determining which seafood categories will be best for growth. These categories will be based on marketplace demand, pricing, and sustainability,” English said.
In another new development Riverence, has paired with Elk Ridge, Maryland, U.S.A.-based Clean Label Gourmet Foods to launch the Fusha Foods ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat frozen and refrigerated seafood meals. Riverence provides the shrimp and salmon for Clean Label’s Fusha Foods meals, which will soon be expanded to include trout. The two companies debuted the line at the 2022 Seafood Expo North America, where the supplier was an exhibitor for the first time.
The vacuum-sealed frozen and refrigerated seafood meals contain only a few ingredients, along with zero additives and preservatives, English said. Clean Label distributes the meals to retailers such as Lakeland, Florida-based Publix and Riverence distributes them through its network. In first quarter of 2022, sales of the meals doubled from the previous quarter, English said.
“This kind of hits what is needed right now. As we slowly return to normal – with kids back to school and burnout from cooking – people are looking for healthy grab-and-go meals that really have a lot of value and save time,” he said.
Clean Label vacuum-seals its Fusha trays at an extremely high pressure, which inactivates bacteria and viruses, according to English. As a result, the shelf life on the meals is two years frozen and 45 days refrigerated.
“[The technology] extends the shelf-life considerably and eliminates waste and shrink at the retail level. That’s why there are no additives or preservatives,” English said.
The Fusha Foods meals, which retail for a suggested USD 8.99 to USD 9.99 (EUR 8.35 to EUR 9.27), are currently available in four different flavors – Shrimp Siciliano, Shrimp Stir Fry, Blackened Salmon, and Thai Style Salmon – with more on the way, English said.
Photo courtesy of Clean Label Gourmet Foods