Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Rainforest eyes big lobster markets in US

Published:Sunday | September 29, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Rainforest Seafoods is banking on revenue improvement through exports to the United States in 2014.

It involves a new push by the company into the lobster market.

"Honduras and The Bahamas have always been the primary Caribbean lobster-tail suppliers to the United States," says Rainforest Manager Max Jardim.

"Jamaica's reputation re quality has always been subpar. We plan to change that," he said.

The company aims to earn 50 per cent of total revenues from its export markets within three years, said Jardim. To meet the target, it is rolling out new products, including pickled mackerel and salt beef, smoked marlin, smoked salmon, smoked whole fish, nine flavours of burger including beef, turkey, and shrimp, as well as battered and breaded fish fillets and shrimp.

Jardim said last Thursday that exports are now 20 per cent of revenues, and should double to 40 per cent next year.

Rainforest currently exports its entire range of products to nine islands in the Caribbean: Cayman Islands, St Kitts-Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados.

"Now that we've got our processing facility HACCP approved we are gearing up for export into the USA. This market would be primarily for Jamaican lobster," Jardim said.

"We will only be buying from local fishermen who are all approved by the veterinary services department, fishermen who operate within HACCP guidelines, who use only sustainable fishing methods, this all to ensure that we, and by extension Jamaica, are exporting the highest quality lobster," he told Sunday Business.

growth in dollar sales

Companiesandmarkets.com re-ports that retail seafood sales in the United States has been forecast to reach US$17.1 billion by the end of 2017. Sales were valued at US$14.7 billion in 2012, the research entity said.

It also notes that growth in dollar sales was offset by declines in both unit sales and volume sales in most retail seafood categories with the exception of frozen seafood and frozen raw shrimp.

Said Jardim: "With the plant, we have the ability to sit at the table with any QSR (quick service restaurant), hotel, supermarket in the Caribbean and produce smoked, breaded, pickled, formed, or pre-seasoned products to their precise specifications. Any protein at that."

Earlier this year, Rainforest Seafoods completed construction of a 30,000-square foot plant in Kingston. The US$10 million investment is meant to fuel its product and market expansions, and is now the largest seafood-oriented plant in the Caribbean, its owners say.

The company, founded by Max's father, Brian Jardim, is based in Montego Bay.

Rainforest also has offices in Guyana, Belize, and Honduras, with its own processing plants and fishing vessels in those locations.

Founded in 1997, the company employs 350 persons and distributes more than 400 types of fish and shellfish.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com