KITCHENER, Ontario -- Seafood-based meal solutions have continued to be problematic for retailers, due to seafood's highly perishable nature, consumers' food safety concerns and challenges associated with preparation.
One option open to retailers is value-added, prepared seafood items that arrive at stores case-ready. In some instances, the product is individually quick-frozen.
Beginning this month, retailers such as Wegman's, Rochester, N.Y., and Elizabeth, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corporation's Shop Rite stores, will carry a selection of prepackaged seafood entrees in their frozen foods departments.
The 1 1/2-pound meal packs hit the states as a co-branded effort of Seafood Selections, a division of International Menu Solutions Corporation based here, and Northern Chef, a division of Seattle-based Taifoong USA.
Sold in the U.S. under the Northern Chef Selections label, the meals are currently offered in four varieties, with two additional products -- to be released during the fourth quarter -- in their final stages of development.
Customers may choose from lobster ravioli with fire-roasted tomato sauce, smoked salmon tortellini with tomato alfredo sauce, seafood lasagna or seafood penne. The lasagna and penne each contain seven different varieties of seafood, making up one-third of the dish's total weight.
Soon to be added is salmon Wellington in puff pastry and a seafood appetizer trio, which will include lobster thermidor, crab Newburg and smoked salmon in phyllo dough pastry.
All meals are also available to club stores, in 2 1/2-pound packages, under the Chef M.J. Brando label.
The meals are shipped frozen and cannot be thawed prior to purchase. While they require storage in a freezer atmosphere, it is up to the individual location to decide which department will stock them.
According to Ian Hamilton, general manager for Seafood Selections, the company turned to Northern Chef and Taifoong because of their retail connections throughout the United States.
"Taifoong was already doing business with a great number of [U.S.-based] retailers," he said. "We decided that, from a marketing standpoint, it was much wiser to work with them than to start from scratch ourselves."
Seafood Selections provides Northern Chef with a finished food product, Hamilton continued. "They then take that product and ship it out through their distribution channels."
International Menu Solutions Corp. is a manufacturing and sales/marketing organization for fresh and frozen entree products for both the United States and Canadian retail marketplace.