Wanchese to process food icon’s products

Published 9:26 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Last year’s $2.8 million investment by Cooke Seafood USA in its Wanchese Fish Company facility in Suffolk paved the way for an announcement in late February that the company would process seafood for one of the most iconic names in food — Martha Stewart.

Stewart became familiar with the operations of Cooke Seafood’s parent company, True North Seafood, after visiting with her staff at the True North salmon farms near her home in Maine in 2016.

From there, it was about a two-year process to strike the deal that landed the Suffolk processing facility a key role in the launch of four products that will debut at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston March 17-19, according to Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture.


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“Certainly, the investments that we’re making in Wanchese are a result of the significant impact of the Martha Stewart product line in terms of developing that product line and production there in Suffolk,” Richardson said.

Richardson said the expansion, announced in November with state and city support, would enable production of the new Martha Stewart for True North Seafood retail line.

The products include Atlantic Salmon with Lemon Herb Butter, Sockeye Salmon with Miso Butter, Wild Alaska Pollock with Southwest Spice Blend and a Seafood Medley — consisting of Wild Alaska Pollock, Atlantic Salmon and Bay Scallops — with a Herb Spice Blend.

“The initial product line offering will be those four available in May in U.S. retail grocery stores,” Richardson said. “Our aim is to have a Canadian line, too, that would follow that. Initially, we’re starting with the U.S. grocery line.”

Richardson said he did not know whether the products would be available in Suffolk-area grocery stores, as that distribution has not been worked out yet.

When Cooke Seafood USA announced Wanchese’s expansion, it said it would add about 70 new jobs in Suffolk during the next three years, including the establishment of new corporate offices for Cooke Seafood, and production jobs for new retail seafood production lines.

Cooke Seafood CEO Ross Butler said at the time that the new investment in the Suffolk facility would improve its chances for future growth while aiding what the plant can already do.

Stewart, in a statement, said she is excited for her partnership with True North.

“Knowing where my seafood comes from is very important to me, and I’ve enjoyed and served True North seafood to family and friends for years,” Stewart said in a statement. “After visiting True North’s salmon farms near my Skylands home in Maine, I saw first-hand their innovative and industry-leading methods of sustainable farming and fishing.”

Cooke Inc. CEO Glenn Cooke said in a statement the company was thrilled to begin a partnership with the food icon.

“It is great for us to be able to work with Martha’s team to bring delicious, well thought-out meals to all tables, even those who have busy schedules and minimal prep time,” Cooke said.

Richardson said the Suffolk plant is more than up to the challenge of processing the seafood.

“They have proven themselves to be very hard working and dedicated,” Richardson said. “It’s a big reason why, as a company, we have made the decision to invest in that location and our facility. We know they’re going to do a great job with the Martha Stewart seafood line.”

True North did a pilot project with Martha Stewart to sell some salmon products on the QVC home shopping channel, and it sold out quickly, Richardson said.

Richardson said this is the company’s first venture to work with someone with Stewart’s credibility as an authority on lifestyle, cooking and recipes.

“The capabilities of Wanchese and the production facility there was very well-suited to develop the product and be a point of distribution into the U.S. market,” Richardson said. “It’s ideally located to serve the U.S. market — Eastern Seaboard and the United States.”