Cooke Aquaculture boosting North American salmon production

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Cooke Aquaculture is increasing North American salmon production this year amid strong demand as the fish farming company also embarks on other expansion plans.

The Canada-based company is boosting its production 12%-14% this year to 115,000 metric tons of salmon in North America, marketing director Andrew Lively told Undercurrent News on the sidelines of the Seafood Expo North America 2015.

The company has been selling more North American product to Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, and demand from US retailers has been good amid government recommendations for eating more seafood, he said.

In the shorter term, US salmon demand has been strong for the Lenten season, he said.

Amid the demand, Cooke is planning a new value-added processing facility, Lively said.

The company is in negotiations now for equipment and land for the plant, which will be located in eastern North America, he said.

The plant will produce vacuum-sealed products, pre-seasoned items and skewers, he said, adding that the company already has prototypes for the product.

Separately, the company’s marketing arm True North Salmon is launching its first television ad campaign on March 29, to run through June 1.

The ads, which will run on Canada’s CTV Television Network, are set to promote the freshness of True North products, their low carbon footprint and their attractiveness to top chefs.

The company is spending “a lot of money” on the major media buy as it works to develop its consumer brands, he said.

Another expansion push form the company has come on the eco label front.

True North salmon from Atlantic Canada and Maine has gotten four-star Best Aquaculture Practices status, representing a combination of the company’s salmon processing facilities, farms, feed mills and hatcheries that are certified.

Three hatchery facilities have been certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance, and Lively said the company expects others it operates to be certified in the near future.

The certifications come as North American retail and foodservice customers such as Sysco are asking for them, but they won’t necessarily help Cooke increase sales or get new customers, Lively said. Certifications are the “cost of doing business today,” he said.

Amid the expansions, Cook has had a recent North American production setback, as fish mortalities from extreme cold water temperatures have been reported at three of its salmon farms.

Lively said the phenomenon happens periodically, and the company is in the initial stages of figuring out what happened. He also noted that water temperatures are warming.

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