Captain Dan’s Inc.: Putting Canadian Seafood on the Map and Keeping It on Menus

Captain Dan’s Inc. (CDI) has grown to be a multimillion dollar seafood processing plant since its founding in 1994. CDI specializes in lobster, shrimp and snow crab. From a corporate office in Dieppe, New Brunswick, and a much larger plant in nearby Cap Lumiere, the company supplies freshly processed fish and seafood to the food service industry worldwide.
CDI started as a small fish market with a bar and restaurant down at the wharf with total seating capacity of 40 patrons. The restaurant quickly snowballed and became a massive 400-seat restaurant that was eventually sold off to bring the focus back to its original mission of providing the freshest seafood possible.
CDI is a jack-of-all-trades and handles every part of the processing once the fish come out of the water. CDI’s supply comes from a dozen or so buyers who take the fish directly from the wharf to CDI’s processing plant where large volumes are sorted, stored and processed for various markets and clients. The company has carved a sizeable niche out of the seafood market with a specialty in lobster. In total, CDI produces 15 different styles of lobster meat, in addition to snow crab, rock crab and smelt, all processed under one roof.
Sweet, Sweet Seafood
The company has acquired a wide range of clientele throughout North America due to a fluctuation in seafood demand over the years. The majority of CDI’s business is conducted with clients in the U.S., but the company still maintains a loyal following of domestic clients as well. Shipments are quickly frozen at CDI’s facilities and shipped in cold storage containers for distribution across the eastern seaboard to restaurant chains, wholesalers and cruise ships.
The recent market presence has forced the company to gradually expand its distribution overseas. In 2010 the company found moderate success selling to European customers, but every year yields different treasures. As for 2012, the CDI team expects a healthy crop of snow crab, ripe for Asian markets. No plans are in place yet, but the one-two punch of seafood’s popularity in Asia and the continent’s increasing purchasing power are hard to ignore.
The company’s greatest concern has been the weather, which compounds the regular difficulties of obtaining harvesting permits. If conditions aren’t safe, fisherman simply can’t go out and there isn’t much the CDI team can do aside from hope.
Finding Demand Worldwide
The food industry may have a general resilience to economic fluctuations, but the industry isn’t entirely insulated from major shifts in market demand. The U.S. just happens to be one of CDI’s major markets and was also the hardest hit by the economic downturn. Less disposable income means less vacations and cruises and in turn, CDI’s sales to the U.S. have declined. On the bright side, CDI has established itself domestically as a fierce competitor and purveyor of the highest quality seafood. Domestic markets are beginning to rally and recover and the CDI team hopes to grow its business locally.
In the future, CDI will diversify the business by expanding into the retail market. To support this effort, the company’s talented and eager team is working to design a complete line of packaging and branding material in-house to sell its products under the CDI brand. Plans aren’t entirely solidified yet and daily operations keep the team busy, however CDI hopes that by early 2012 the team will have a solid presence in local retail chains.
To support a full-fledged retail operation, the company will also need to bring the plant’s production up to full-capacity. The processing plant is fairly new and processing operations are as modern as possible, but the larger issue for the company has been finding enough skilled labor to keep up with demand. Like many companies in Canada, CDI looked abroad and worked with the government to bring in 40 skilled workers from the Philippines. The new labor enables the firm to run the plant at full capacity and wait out the storm until luxury markets begin to recover.
The luxury markets have rebounded faster than many would have expected. When the overall economy begins showing positive signs, CDI will be ready and waiting to provide fresh, high quality seafood. Captain Dan’s Inc. has already proven itself capable of handling just about any market challenge and tourists and locals alike are sure to enjoy its fruit so the sea for years to come.