U.S. firm cornering “booming” cedar plank market
What started as a simple search for a cedar plank upon which to cook salmon has grown into a business that sold more than 250,000 planks last year. Now Fire & Flavor co-owner Davis Knox calls business for his specialty cedar planks “booming.”
Knox, an Athens, Georgia, U.S.A. native, founded Fire & Flavor in 2003 with his wife Gena, who got the idea for the business after she read about the Native American technique of cooking salmon on a cedar plank but could not find any of the planks on the market.
Fast forward to 2016: The plank and plank wrap market accounted for nearly USD 3 million (EUR 2.8 million) and Fire & Flavor cornered around 60 percent of the market, according to Nielsen numbers.
“We saw that it was becoming popular in a lot of the restaurants. Tom Douglas and other restauranteurs were starting to put in on their menus, but no one had tried to create a brand or sell it to retail,” Knox said.
The company grew quickly. By 2008, Fire and Flavor was listed in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies in America and was already in 10,000 major retail stores, including Kroger, Safeway, Albertson’s, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Publix. Through Cisco, Fire & Flavor’s presence has grown in the restaurants as well, and Knox estimates they count between 4,000 and 5,000 restaurants as clients.
But after sitting on a comfortable plateau for a few years, Fire & Flavor is poised to surge again, this time through partnerships with processors producing individually vacuum-packed (IVP) salmon portions that are each packaged with their own portion-sized cedar plank.
“As of the last few years, it’s become a hot item for salmon processors. So it’s going into a ready-to-eat model now,” Knox said.
Fire & Flavor hopes their planks, made from western red cedar heartwood from British Columbia, Canada, will soon come packaged and ready to drop on the grill.
“We have a program to sell to processors,” Knox said. “It’s a launch year for us to sell to those major processors, and we’re talking to the largest salmon processors from all over the world, in Poland and Chile and Panama and the U.K.”