Fishpeople launches to better brand NW seafood
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Fishpeople's shelf-stable entree packages are on store shelves and aiming to be the best-known Pacific Northwest seafood brand.
The problem with Oregon's seafood is that much of it is shipped elsewhere for processing. As little as 15 percent of the fish caught here is consumed here.
Duncan Berry set out to change that with Fishpeople.
The company did a careful analysis of Oregon's seafood supply chain to find out what was working and what wasn't, and to find the reasons why Oregonians aren't eating more of their seafood bounty. One of the first things the founders discovered: Oregon is missing a definitive seafood brand.
"If we're sustainability gurus and foodies why haven't we done what's been done elsewhere in the U.S.?" Berry said. "There is no truly Pacific Northwest seafood brand."
With pre-packaged, locally sourced seafood entrees — four of them are on store shelves so far — Fishpeople is aiming to become that brand.
Fishpeople has a mandate of including as many local ingredients in each dish as possible. The Smoked Salmon and Smoked Oyster Chowder features oysters from Netarts Bay, salmon from Youngs Bay, Alpenrose Dairy cream, garlic from a farm in Talent and thyme from a farm in Troutdale. The suggested retail price for a single-serving pouch of the chowder is $5.99.
The company, backed by individual investors, is aiming to become a certified B Corp., the Benefit Corporation certification that indicates the company is out for environmental and social good in addition to profit.
Berry, a former commercial fisherman, said every variety of fish sold by Fishpeople will be evaluated through multiple lenses for sustainability.
"We're trying to entertain and to educate," Berry said.
Each entree pouch includes a code that can be entered on the company's website to trace where all the ingredients came from. To get the attention of consumers, Fishpeople sells fresh fish at select farmers markets along with the packaged versions.
Fishpeople cooks its sauces and then marries them with the fish in a facility in Coos Bay. The fish is cooked in the packaging — a process similar to canning — and is shelf stable. Pouches are sold at regional stores including New Seasons, Whole Foods, Market of Choice and PCC Natural Markets.
Jodie Emmett de Maciel, Fishpeople's brand manager, said the company is on an ambitious product development push and hopes to have two or three new product releases out in the next year or so.
"This is a niche that's been untapped," Emmett de Maciel said. "The stores and retailers are responding amazingly well."
Ambitious is a word that applies to multiple aspects of the four-person startup. Along the way to becoming the most recognized seafood brand in the region, Berry expects to ramp up to revenues in the neighborhood of $20 million in the next four years. The company will also consider translating its model to other regions, potentially giving rise to a Fishpeople specific to the Gulf Coast or other regional fisheries.
The Fishpeople logo won a 2012 Rosey Award for brand identity.
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