Farm to fork: Riverence Provisions’ pivot to packaged foods

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Riverence Provisions
Source: Riverence Provisions

Related tags Aquaculture Seafood

Land-based premium trout producer Riverence Provision touts its responsible farming practices to stand out among the competition in grocery stores, where it launched a selection of frozen fish and dips after pandemic-related challenges disrupted its food service business.

Located in Idaho’s Magic Valley, where 70% of the nation’s trout is produced​, Riverence sets itself apart from the competition in retail by prioritizing transparent farming practices that are Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)-certified and delivering a consistent supply of rainbow and steelhead trout through its CPG business.

Both certification and consistency helped the company earn customer and consumer trust after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it pivot from primarily food service to retail.

Building an ASC-certified trout farm

Image_(10)-optimized (2) (1)
With 14 farms under its ownership (six farms for steelhead trout and eight for rainbow trout), Riverence raises its fish near and around the Snake River, where fresh water from surrounding mountain springs circulate into its raceways and filters back out into the river. The waste from the raceways is collected and distributed to neighboring farms for compost. Source: D. Ataman

When Riverence Holdings LLC acquired Clear Springs Food in February 2021, the merger formed the largest ASC-certified land-based trout farm in the US, allowing Riverence to control the supply chain from its brood stock to distribution.

With a growing presence in the US, ASC certification works directly with seafood farmers, distributors and suppliers to establish and enforce rigorous standards across the supply chain. Water quality, fish feed and facility operations are just some of the critical areas assessed to ensure responsible and sustainable seafood production.

With 14 farms under its ownership (six farms for steelhead trout and eight for rainbow trout), Riverence raises its fish near and around the Snake River, where fresh water from surrounding mountain springs circulate into its raceways and filters back out into the river. The waste from the raceways is collected and distributed to neighboring farms for compost.

Standing out in retail among ‘a sea of products’

The combined companies “were very service-centric,” with a focus on restaurants, Todd English, VP of sustainability at Riverence, told FoodNavigator-USA. With the onset of COVID-19 and the shuttering of restaurants around the country, Riverence pivoted to developing relationships with a few key retailers, which was a challenge as many stores were not accepting new products.

“Nobody was in the stores to be able to test products and it was a bit of a challenge. COVID affected us significantly, [so] we focused on the retail side to really balance out our sales and … it has taken up quite a bit of time to be able to develop the relationships necessary for retail, to be able to establish the trust [and] to introduce new products,” English said.

He noted that the process of building relationships with retailers required Riverence to provide a consistent and quality product while meeting “certain guidelines like ASC certification or Safe Quality Food certification in the [facility]” that “make your product stand out in a sea … of products.”

Riverence also is working with brokers who have established relationships with buyers for “a couple of key products, like frozen inventory,” English said.

The company offers a variety of ASC-certified frozen trout products in approximately 2,000 retail locations, primarily in Texas and the Midwest, according to English. These include Whole Rainbow Trout in a 32-ounce bag, individually vacuum-packed Rainbow Trout fillets and Steelhead Trout fillets in 12-ounce bags and 4-ounce Smoked Rainbow Trout, in addition to a recently launched 7-ounce Smoked Rainbow Trout dip and spread. Because raw and cooked fish cannot be processed in the same facility, Riverence sends its trout to Washington State to be smoked and packaged. Any excess trim is added into the smoked trout dip, which is produced in Maryland, English said.

As the seafood department becomes more segmented between fresh, ready-to-eat and frozen, Riverence intends to “create consumer packaged goods that fit those niches within grocery stores,” English said. This could look like adding more information about recipes and sourcing on packaging via QR codes.

That way, as “volume for us goes up, the consumer gets more information because of the packaging – they understand where their fish is coming from,” he added.

The company does not offer direct-to-consumer due to the cost of shipping its products.

“If you order $25 worth of products, you are going to pay $75 to get them overnight. Perishable products are really, really challenging,” English said.

However, Riverence’s trout are offered on DTC platforms like Crowd Cow, Good Chop, Fish Fixe and Home Chef.

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