Shediac Lobster Shop Ltd.
A trusted name since 1952
Business View Magazine interviews Daniel Belliveau, VP of Shediac Lobster Shop Ltd., for our focus on Sustainability in Canadian Fisheries.
From its ideal location in beautiful seaside New Brunswick, lobster capital of the world, Shediac Lobster Shop, Inc. specializes in processing Cold Water Atlantic Lobster products for the Canadian, U.S., Asian, and European Markets. Trusted by satisfied customers since 1952, Shediac Lobster produces safe, traceable lobster products that are HACCP approved, CTPAT, PIP, NSF International Certified Audited, MSC Certified, and, wow, are they delicious! All lobsters are processed and frozen within hours of being caught to preserve the delicate taste and texture consumers love.
It all began in 1952, when Mr. Ernest Maillet opened a canteen on Main Street in Shediac, New Brunswick to sell cooked lobster to the public during the tourist season. The company’s only source of revenue was counter sales until 1958, when Shediac Lobster Shop obtained its first fish processing license. Now in its third generation, the firm is still owned and operated by the Maillet family. Gilles Maillet is COO and General Manager, and his brother, Serge Maillet, is Plant Production Manager and oversees production. Together they strive to advance the family legacy and passion, continuing to build this respected, innovative lobster processing company and satisfy the growing needs and demands of customers.
The business has three separate divisions. 1. Shediac Lobster Shop: a 35,000-sq.-ft. seafood processing facility, specializing in processing Cold Water Atlantic Lobster products for export to markets in Canada, U.S., Asia, and Europe. They are currently expanding into the live market. 2. Pointe du Chene Seafood: a live holding facility located in the community of Pointe du Chene, NB, where Shediac Bay joins the Northumberland Strait. The state-of-the-art facility uses fresh saltwater to circulate and ensure natural holding conditions for live lobster. 3. Shediac Bay Fisheries: the company’s trucking division has a fleet of trucks that pick up lobster at the wharf, take them to the holding facility, and from there to the processing plant about five miles away. The fleet also hauls live lobster and finished product for Shediac Lobster Shop to customers in Boston.
Shediac Lobster Shop Ltd. Vice President, Daniel Belliveau, has been with the company since 2010. He shares, “The company is a family business that started as a combination ice cream stand and lobster stand way back in 1952. We don’t do distribution, we process and sell lobster products – the U.S. is our main market, we also sell to Europe, Japan, China, and a small amount in Canada. We’re mostly an exporter. We have one processing facility, one live holding facility, and a packaging and machine fabricating facility, where we make equipment– stainless steel tables and racks, etc., specifically for our own lobster plant.”
With a workforce varying between 200 and 250 people, Shediac Lobster Shop is a large and valuable employer in the community of Shediac. The company works with different lobster suppliers, some fishermen sell to them directly, and they also purchase from suppliers that have excess lobster. Typical customers are food service companies, cruise lines, restaurant chains such as Red Lobster, and large grocery chains. Shediac Lobster Shop’s naked lobster is a favorite – de-shelled and frozen completely raw, so chefs can cook it themselves for their own signature dishes.
Speaking to the challenges in the lobster industry, Belliveau reports, “The lobster is readily available but weather is a big factor. If it’s windy for four or five days, and the fishermen don’t go out and fish, we’re down 70,000 pounds a day. In one week, that’s 490,000 pounds that we can’t process. We’re geared for volume and when you miss several days because of weather, it’s a lot. And we can’t do anything about it.” There is no lobster limit, but there is a time period when fishermen can fish and a number of traps they’re allowed to fish. Direct competition is not an issue. “We’re all busy,” says Belliveau. “We have our markets and we have to support the fishermen, too, because if one company tries to get it all, some of the fishermen are going to suffer. We need some processing volumes to accommodate the fishermen. If they come to your door to sell their catch, and you say, “Sorry I already bought my limit,” they’re out of luck. That’s why competition among processors is good for our fishing industry.”
Another challenge is China’s developing economy that’s creating a big demand for high-end items like lobster, and putting pressure on the resource. Some owners of Chinese companies have even purchased lobster operations in Canada. Shediac Lobster Shop’s business is growing and China is driving much of that growth, along with an increased need for skilled workers. But the local labor force isn’t sufficient to sustain the company’s demand, so the company is bringing in laborers from Mexico, the Philippines, and some Asian countries. To accommodate those workers, Shediac Lobster Shop has purchased some housing in the area to take care of them – after all, these people will be spending a good amount of money in the community. The company is involved in the community in many other ways, including being one of the biggest sponsors for the annual Shediac Lobster Festival in July. It also sponsored last year’s Ocean Festive – a new event featuring the best Atlantic Canada has to offer -world-class seafood, breweries, wineries, distilleries, beaches, artisans, artists, and live music.
Shediac Lobster Shop is focused on sustainability, while trying to expand its footprint globally by meeting face-to-face with business owners overseas. Belliveau notes, “With sales and marketing, my job was to go after blue chip accounts and get product as close to the end user as possible. The more direct, the better control you have. Food safety and sustainability are very important, so we’re paying attention to those on a global scale. We specialize in frozen and our product is sent frozen by cargo ships. All the food audits and stringent quality control rules are very demanding and our QC Manager, Anna Cormier, goes above and beyond to keep on top of the regulatory changes. Also deserving credit is Lana Maillet, our VP of Human Resources, who basically pioneered working with employees from other countries for the processing industry down here.”
Five years ago, the company put in a high-pressure lobster processing machine – a multi-million-dollar investment to get it into the Japanese market because there was a demand in Japan for that high quality of product. The machine pressurizes the lobster shell, so the meat comes off much cleaner. It was a costly, but necessary, investment to get into a specialty markets. Looking to the future, Belliveau says, “Down the road, we want to have more automation. We want the bulk to remain as primary processing, but I’d like to see a percentage shift to more specialty lobster products.
“Our lobster facility is almost like a monument in Shediac. It’s been here since 1952. The Maillets are a great family and really good to their employees. At Shediac Lobster Shop, we’re very conscious of quality, it’s imprinted in our mentality. That’s why we deal with companies like the Red Lobsters of the world. We have a huge, 58-ton cement lobster statue right next door to our plant, and people come by the busload to get their picture taken with it. We can’t put a food truck out there – it’s a bylaw – but we do have a nice eatery nearby, ‘The Big Lobster Hut,’ which I happen to run. And we also own VIP Seafood that’s more retail-oriented for the general population; you can find those products at Costco. And Shediac, itself, is a great town. A touristy, fun area – like Cape Cod, or Muskoka, in New Brunswick. Everyone is invited to come and sample what we have to offer!”
AT A GLANCE
Who: Shediac Lobster Shop Ltd.
What: Processor of cold water Atlantic lobster products
Where: Shediac, New Brunswick