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With New Releases, Fishpeople Seeks to Redefine Seafood

Carol Ortenberg

Sustainable seafood brand Fishpeople is determined to reinvigorate the seafood department and hook consumers on the concept that seafood can be fun, fast and easy with the launch of two new products at Natural Products Expo East.

Founded in 2012, Oregon-based Fishpeople has made its mark on the seafood industry by selling traceable fish offerings to retailers, meal kit producers, consumers and foodservice providers. Its product line up in retail previously centered around private label fresh fish offerings, a line of soups and a line of frozen fish meal kits. The brand’s spate of innovation comes soon after a 2107 $12 million round of funding from Advantage Capital, S2G Ventures, Encourage Capital, Blueberry Ventures and Collaborative Fund.

At the natural products trade show, the brand is debuting two new product lines, including wild Alaskan salmon jerky available in four flavors: rainbow peppercorn, sweet and smoky original, lemon zest and herb, and ancho chili lime. With an MSRP of $6.99, the jerky will hit Amazon first. Fishpeople’s jerky has 6 grams of sugar and 24 grams of protein per two serving bag.

Fishpeople CEO Ken Plasse told NOSH that the jerky marks the brand’s first opportunity to dramatically expand the usage occasions for seafood.

“We are on a quest to become today’s modern leading seafood brand across all occasions, and when we think about these occasions it goes from scratch — where we have our traceable portions program — to speed scratch — which has been the seafood entree and kit line — and then you move into ready-to-eat — which has been our soups traditionally,” Plasse said. “The final was on-the-go.”

The jerky does takes Fishpeople into yet another category, as currently the brand sells products into the center store soup set as well as the seafood department. But, Plasse said, although merchandising the jerky in the seafood set was an option, the team — along with its retail buyers — felt that the product didn’t resonate well with consumers in that section of the store.

“Today’s consumer is really seeking alternative proteins that are healthier. They still want those bold flavors and they want it to be varied,” Plasse said. “When you look at the [jerky] sets of most retailers, this is an area where they just don’t have any offerings and it [will bring] in an incremental consumer. I think you’ll find, say for a c-store, which drives to a typically male customer, this definitely appeals to females, millennials and kids.”

The second product Plasse will launch at Expo East is Ready Set Salmon, a prepacked line of oven roasted salmon. Available in three flavors — lemon zest and herb, original, and rainbow peppercorn — each two-serving box will retail for $7.99 for 4 ounces. Plasse said Ready Set Salmon will offer consumers a variety of ways to easily integrate salmon into their meals from breakfast scrambles to lunch wraps to dinner salads, similar to pre-packed, cooked chicken pieces sold in the deli set.

“If you think about your options today, people feel like they don’t have good meat alternatives to breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner,” Plasse said. “This is a very ambidextrous product — it’s like a ninja product.”

Unlike those chicken strips, Ready Set Salmon will be sold out of the seafood set in the chilled cooler and not the deli case. The line will be shipped to retailers frozen and slacked out to avoid using preservatives such as nitrates while giving retailers more flexibility with the product’s 21 day shelf life.

Plasse said part of the reason he chose to slot the product into seafood was not only to avoid having another buyer to work with, but more importantly, to highlight the seafood department and show consumers innovative products in that set. Thanks in part to retailer feedback, Fishpeople’s frozen fish kits will also relaunch in the seafood set this fall with a “slightly improved” format that simplifies the user experience, changes the packaging and drops the price to $9.99 from its previous $10.99 to $12.99.

“We’ve been fortunate to have good partners and they all loved the concept but they wanted to help us get it to the right to the right place,” Plasse said. “We want to provide the most value [to the consumer] and give the retailer the flexibility to merchandise it in the right part of their set.”

That flexibility comes from a smaller box height.. Plasse said unlike center store shelves, seafood is the “wild west” where merchandising isn’t as standardized, so a smaller shape will allow more retailers to pick up the product. As a result, Plasse expects to add roughly 3,000 new retailers this fall with “even larger numbers” next Spring.

Fishpeople is also continuing to innovate with existing lines. The brand also recently launched a plant-based wild Alaskan salmon corn chowder that uses corn to make a creamy base rather than dairy. By offering a unique healthier chowder, said Plasse, the company has “reinvigorated” interest in its soup line and expects roughly 4,000 to 5,000 retailers to pick up the new SKU by fall.

Regardless of all the new product launches, Plasse noted one of his main goals is to continue to think about how he can best bring excitement to the seafood set.

“At the end of the day, we are partnering with our seafood partners and buyers… to separate them in seafood,” Plasse said. “Seafood is something that U.S. consumers are just figuring out… but overall, I love that the space is just starting to get the attention that it deserves.”

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