IMO Limited has been supplying the five Costco stores in the Atlantic Provinces for the past few years. (Another store in Fredericton that recently opened will also be selling their product.)
This Costco market tripled in the past month with the addition of 17 Costco stores in the Greater Toronto Area.
IMO president and general manager Phil LeBlanc says part of IMO’s commitment to Costco to help develop the market is to demonstrate the product.
“Typically these are busy stores. We’re estimating 500 people a day are going to taste these kippers in each store. In four days that works out to 30,000 people that are going to sample our product.
“We’re pretty excited to see how it goes,” he says.
Many people in other parts of Canada are not familiar with this little fish and the wide variety of sauces it can be processed with, LeBlanc adds. Kippers are processed from herring, as are sardines.
Having Costco as a client is an excellent opportunity for IMO to build its own brand – Kersen, which has composed only 10 per cent of their sales in the past.
The bulk of IMO’s business is packing for other companies that have their own brand names and do all their own marketing and promotion.
One of those companies, based in Maine, orders smoked sardines in maple syrup.
Other flavours include mustard, tomato sauce, paprika, pepper, beer and horseradish. All told, there are close to 100 flavours.
Kippers in a hot sauce are being marketed by Kersen for the Caribbean market.
With more interest in healthy lifestyles, the high Omega 3 content is a big selling point.
LeBlanc says they also make a good snack.
“It’s like eating chips, but it’s not as bad for you. British people eat kippers for breakfast,” he says.
Although IMO hasn’t had to hire more people or expand, that remains a possibility in the future, given the Costco contract.
“It’s making us very busy right now. If it could go to the next level, it could require us to hire more people. We’ve been working overtime the past few weeks to catch up on these orders,” LeBlanc says.
At least there’s no worry over the supply. LeBlanc says there is lots of herring locally and that the plant is processing less than 10 per cent of the quota.