New Zealand King Salmon expands into US retail

Christine Blank Jan 26 , 2021

New Zealand King Salmon is expanding its Regal King salmon brand in the United States, and is finding new markets for its foodservice-focused Ora King salmon brand.

The company, which has its U.S. operations based in New York City but farms its marquee product in Nelson, New Zealand, also plans to start selling freeze-dried salmon pet treats in the U.S. this spring.

Downers Grove, Illinois, U.S.A.-based Fresh Thyme Market, which operates 70 stores, is carrying the premium Regal King salmon, raised in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds, sold fresh at seafood counters.

“As part of COVID, we were looking for additional retail opportunities and wanted to work with a retailer who wanted a retail fresh program as well,” New Zealand King Salmon North America Vice President Michael Fabbro told SeafoodSource. “For us, Fresh Thyme is a perfect fit: it has great stores and a consumer who really wants premium products and cares about smart, sustainable seafood choices.”

Fresh Thyme was also the first to carry New Zealand King Salmon’s smoked salmon line starting last March.

“Regal is a premium smoked salmon and sits at the higher end of the price point tiers,” Fabbro said. “Their shoppers liked the product and they got great feedback.”

Fresh Thyme is debuting the fresh salmon at USD 12.99 (EUR 10.75) per pound until 2 February, and then it will retail for USD 14.99 (EUR 12.00) per pound. New Zealand King Salmon will promote its fresh program to other U.S. grocery chains as well.

“We would like this to be a model for some things we could do with other retailers around the country. With our lineup of smoked salmon and fresh, we could build a really great Regal program,” Fabbro said. “We have a lot of tools to drive that education to the consumer about where it comes from, and what is the difference between King salmon and Atlantic salmon.”

In April, New Zealand King Salmon also plans to expand its Omega Plus King Salmon pet treats, launched in New Zealand two years ago, to the U.S. market.

“It’s gone well in New Zealand and, with the scale of the U.S. market, there is more opportunity here,” Fabbro said. “We were planning on doing this already, but because of COVID, we wanted to get on it quicker.”

The freeze-dried pet treats, made from trim pieces, allows the company to “use the whole animal, or as much of it as we can,” Farro said.

Meanwhile, the salmon supplier has found new outlets for its foodservice brand, Ora King salmon. “When COVID hit in March, sales volume came to a screeching halt. In North America, we were skewed toward foodservice, and it was hugely disruptive,” Fabbro said.

However, New Zealand King Salmon has seen a sales lift in Ora King since it shifted more product to retail, direct-to-consumer channels, and online sales halfway through 2020. Distributor partners Browne Trading and Baldor/ Pierless Fish  “did some great promotions with Ora King on the consumer side of their business,” Fabbro said.

“People were used to eating out and wanted that premium product to cook at home,” he said.

New Zealand King Salmon created a website to sell the upscale fish and partnered with Goldbelly, which sells regional and artisanal foods online.

Meanwhile, fish markets and specialty markets such as Citarella in New York and H.E.B.’s Central Market stores in Texas “have done really good business in the fresh seafood department” despite the pandemic, Fabbro said.