By: Andrea Eymann
Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly
RAMEA – Despite the pandemic’s negative impact on many areas of the economy, Danny Dumaresque’s Labrador Gem Seafoods is currently expanding business into St. John’s. Building a small distribution centre will allow the company to have better access to airplanes to get products to its customers faster.
Labrador Gem Seafoods sells a variety of fish, including scallops, lobster, crab, sea urchin, Atlantic cod, halibut, turbot, grey sole, hake, herring, mackerel, capelin and squid.
Dumaresque would love to ship his frozen fish straight to consumers but the ongoing pandemic did affect that side of operations.
“It was extremely difficult, and a lot of last year was a lot of anxiety,” Dumaresque said.
The fish only has a shelf-life of 14 days. Shipping fish out to Tokyo, Japan and other markets, especially during the second wave, caused hiccups.
“The product went the way it was supposed to sometimes and other times it had to be re-routed to go to two airports,” noted Dumaresque.
With a new distribution centre in St. John’s, Labrador Gem Seafoods can receive orders and get them out to the customers within 48 hours to anywhere in North America.
“We are trying to move our business away from the wholesalers and more direct to the customers and especially focus on North America,” said Dumaresque.
Even though the Deer Lake airport is only about three hours away from the Ramea fish plant, the choice was made to build the distribution centre to avail of the St. John’s airport for a couple of reasons instead.
Said Dumaresque, “It would be a lot more efficient and less costly, but that airport doesn’t have the capacity to have frozen or fresh seafood being flown out on a reliable basis and especially with the pandemic.”
Dumaresque is also developing a brand new website to make it easier for people to purchase the products. The distribution centre also will mean new equipment and new packaging designs.
“I’m using a new technology, (it) is the vacuum skin packaging technology,” said Dumaresque. “It’s like a vacuum pack but it takes it, and it forms right around the product and it’s going to eliminate 100 per cent of the oxygen to give you a better shelf-life and it looks like a million dollars.”
Dumaresque estimates the expansion to St. John’s will cost about $250,000 to $300,000 and will create 10 new jobs.
The pandemic came with an unexpected upside too. Dumaresque has observed a significant increase of frozen seafood by about 30 or 40 percent. Labrador Gem’s seafood is frozen immediately once it has been processed.
“People came to realize that frozen seafood was actually as good or contended better than fresh,” said Dumaresque.
Dumaresque has been involved with the fishing industry for 20 years but launched his processing business six years ago. Around 2001 was when he seemed to stumble into it.
“I was a member of the legislature in Newfoundland for several years and I lost an election, and I came out of there and decided to try and do a little hand of seafood consulting.”
That was when a Boston company, called Atlantic Gem came looking for someone to help secure some licensing for a processing facility. Even though, Dumaresque did not know much about the fishing business, he knew people.
Atlantic Gem asked him to get them some scallops, and so he got scallops from a fisherman for eight dollars and he then sold the scallops for $25 to Atlantic Gem.
“Well then, I can sell enough of them I’m going to make a living at it,” recounted Dumaresque.
Six years ago, says Dumaresque, the price of fish per pound was $1.25 to get it out of the ocean and today it is $7.50.
The industry may have its up and downs, but by expediting shipping and expanding its offerings direct to consumers, it’s clear that Labrador Gem Seafoods will continue to adapt.
The company’s new website is scheduled to go live on July 1.