Q&A: How Chicken of the Sea is meeting customers’ changing seafood needs


Bryan Rosenberg, President and CEO of Thai Union North America, parent company of Chicken of the Sea International and Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods, discusses the results of a survey of food executives and buyers , how Chicken of the Sea has adapted amid the volatility of the past two years, and how the brand remains connected to its customers.

Posted: June 29, 2022

(Image credit: Knut Troim/Unsplash)

This post is sponsored by Chicken from the sea.

Global supply chain disruptions, inflation and fluctuating consumer demand have weighed on the food industry, forcing manufacturers, restaurants and retailers to adapt. To learn more about how the seafood industry views and responds to these changes, Chicken of the Sea surveyed 100 grocery and retail foodservice buyers and executives and published the results in the first “Sea Chicken Industry Overview: A Deeper Dive.” In this interview, Bryan Rosenberg, President and CEO of Thai Union North America, parent company of Chicken of the Sea International and Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods, discusses the survey results, how Chicken of the Sea s is adapted amid the volatility of the last two years and how the brand remains connected to its customers.

Bryan Rosenberg, President and CEO of Thai Union North America

What effect has the pandemic-driven increase in consumers eating at home had on seafood sales in grocery stores?

Consumers have been filling their freezers and pantries with healthy protein options during the pandemic, driving up retail seafood consumption. While steady seafood sales have held up well over this period, we are seeing a reset in demand for frozen and fresh seafood from the highs of 2020-2021. This is due to hyperinflation in several key product categories, and we expect demand to continue to fluctuate.

In our survey of food buyers and executives, there was some optimism for our industry – 71% felt the seafood industry was best positioned to deal with unexpected challenges, such as supply chain disruptions, compared to other protein categories.

What types of products are most popular with consumers looking for a restaurant-like experience when preparing seafood at home?

When people go to a restaurant, they want a meal that they couldn’t prepare at home, either because they don’t have the ingredients or because the preparation is too complicated. Thanks to the rise of home cooking, consumers are more comfortable with staple seafood like shrimp and salmon. But half of those surveyed told us that people are still trying to recreate the restaurant experience at home.

Our solution was to introduce products with unique stuffing and breading to a historically limited category of breaded shrimp and fish. Crispy Stuffed Shrimp products can be prepared at home in an oven or air fryer and feel and taste like an appetizer found on a restaurant menu.

How willing are consumers to try new and innovative seafood products, and what can retailers do to encourage them to try new products? How will the exploration of seafood change the way foodservice operators reach out to their customers?

The food executives and buyers we surveyed were surprised by the high number of consumer requests for value-added products (44%), ready-to-eat (42%) and ready-to-cook items (42% ). Our innovation team recognized this opportunity even before the pandemic and had been working on solutions.
Consumers tend to avoid ordering ready-to-go seafood. This was not just a challenge for consumers, but for our customers who had to pivot their business to cope with an increase in takeout and deliveries.

We’ve developed an exclusive breading system that stays crispy longer to solve the problem of breaded seafood becoming soggy in transit. We launched our Perfectly Crisp shrimp and started to see retailers marketing them in their deli aisles, where consumers are buying prepared meals on the go, but seafood-related offerings are underrepresented. The cost and time savings behind the scenes will also meet the needs of our foodservice customer partners.

What is driving growing consumer demand for sustainably sourced or responsibly sourced seafood, and what steps is Thai Union/COS taking to improve seafood sustainability?

Historically, consumers have been reluctant to pay the premiums for products with sustainability claims, in part due to a lack of clarity about what they mean. But there is no doubt that the tide is turning, thanks to increased awareness and conversations on topics such as climate change and responsible sourcing. Nearly half of the people (47%) we surveyed were surprised by consumer demands for sustainably caught or farmed seafood and 73% saw an increase in demand for these items over the past few years. last 12 months.

As consumers seek more sustainable products, we have made our SeaChange strategy and resources available to our customers by offering responsibly sourced seafood options, traceability programs and partnership opportunities with fisheries and aquaculture improvement projects.

We also recognize that part of sustainability is discovering alternative sources of protein. We are actively working on several projects in this area, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

What other factors are important to consumers when buying seafood?

Convenience is key for consumers – they want easy items without sacrificing quality or flavor. This was an important consideration when developing our Crispy Stuffed and Perfectly Crisp products, but we view convenience as a broader opportunity than new product development. There’s always a hurdle for premium shellfish like lobster and crab. We’ve solved this problem with preparation and packaging options so consumers can be more confident when spending more on these items. For example, our Pasteurized Crab Meat and Cooked Lobster Meat are ready-to-eat and available in small packages to account for higher cost and easier portion control. These items were historically purchased for special occasions or when eating out at restaurants, but can now be incorporated as unique, healthier options for everyday dinner or entertainment.

Why is it important for retailers and catering teams to find a strategic partner that meets their needs as the industry adapts to the challenges of today’s food market, especially pricing challenges?

The seafood industry is highly fragmented and transactional. Strong and supportive relationships with suppliers and customers are part of the foundations of our business success. During the pandemic and subsequent supply chain disruptions, these partnerships have been even more critical as we tackle these issues together. I think more companies – across industries – will be looking to move from transactional relationships to deeper partnerships. Every business brings something to the table. Chicken of the Sea brings our global production and sourcing capabilities, industry-leading quality assurance program, market intelligence, demand planning resources and sustainability leadership – and our client partners really appreciate that.

As President and CEO of Thai Union North America, Bryan Rosenberg is responsible for its two primary operating companies, Chicken of the Sea International and Chicken of the Sea Frozen Foods. Under his leadership, COSFF became the largest importer of frozen shrimp and crabmeat in North America, selling through all trade channels.

Rosenberg serves on the board of the Seafood Task Force (coalition to address human rights and environmental issues in the seafood supply chain) and the advisory board of the Department of Economics of the United States. University of California at Santa Barbara.

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