Riverence Group, based in Boise, Idaho, USA, the largest producer of land trout in the United States, is moving into the sale of other seafood species with the aim of becoming a distributor of products from the sea general public.
Following its acquisition of Clear Springs Foods in 2020, Riverence now operates 14 trout farms with a production capacity of over 15,000 metric tons per year, in addition to four broodstock stations, two primary processing facilities, a value-added processing plant, a factory waste recovery center and a flour mill. He also inherited Clear Springs’ national trucking fleet and distribution network.
“We’re an evolving company,” Todd English, Riverence’s vice president of sustainability, told SeafoodSource. “Because we deliver to over 90 fish houses twice a week [with our own fleet]we have introduced other types of seafood to bring value to our customers.
The company, backed by Hollywood producer David E. Kelley, struggled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, laying off more than 150 employees and cutting salaries by 25% across the company, to following a sharp drop in foodservice sales. But over the past two years, an increase in retail trout demand has stabilized the company’s performance, English said.
“Trout sales have increased for both retail and food service over the past year,” said English. “People are starting to realize that you can get the same health benefits [from trout] like eating other kinds of seafood, and it’s a local American product, which is very important to consumers.
Trout prices have risen “in line with inflation”, but trout still compares favorably in price compared to soaring salmon prices, English said.
“When people are looking for a healthier alternative to any other terrestrial protein, trout offers all of these benefits at a price point that is essential for consumers,” he said.
Jumping into the burgeoning US seafood market, Riverence has expanded its offerings to include premium fresh salmon, best aquaculture practice certified shrimp from India, tuna products from Indonesia, pompano, ready-to-eat seafood dishes and a line of fresh sturgeon. It also offers retail bags of haddock, sea bass and cooked octopus legs. Although it currently sells the seafood under brands, Riverence will supply it over time through a private label, according to English. It will also expand to other seafood categories in the near future.
“Right now, we’re determining which seafood categories will be best for growth. These categories will be based on market demand, pricing and sustainability,” said English.
In another new development, Riverence has partnered with Clean Label Gourmet Foods, based in Elk Ridge, Maryland, USA, to launch Fusha foods ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat frozen and chilled seafood meals. Riverence supplies the prawns and salmon for Clean Label Fusha Foods meals, which will soon be expanded to include trout. The two companies launched the line at Seafood Expo North America 2022, where the supplier was exhibiting for the first time.
Vacuum-sealed frozen and refrigerated seafood meals contain only a few ingredients, plus zero additives and preservatives, English said. Clean Label distributes the meals to retailers such as Publix, based in Lakeland, Fla., and Riverence distributes them through its network. In the first quarter of 2022, meal sales doubled from the previous quarter, English said.
“That kind of hits what is needed right now. As we slowly get back to normal – with kids heading back to school and exhausting themselves cooking – people are looking for healthy on-the-go meals that really pack a lot of value and save time,” a- he declared.
Clean Label vacuum seals its Fusha trays at extremely high pressure, which inactivates bacteria and viruses, according to English. As a result, the shelf life of meals is two years frozen and 45 days refrigerated.
“[The technology] dramatically extends shelf life and eliminates waste and loss at the retail level. That’s why there are no additives or preservatives,” said English.
Fusha Foods Meals, which sell for a suggested price of $8.99 to $9.99 (€8.35 to €9.27), are currently available in four different flavors – Sicilian Shrimp, Shrimp Stir Fry, Blackened Salmon and Thai salmon – with more on the way, said English.
Photo courtesy of Clean Label Gourmet Foods