Northern Wind Inc.: A Selective Seafood Partner
2012 marked 25 years of success for New England-based seafood supplier Northern Wind Inc. (Northern Wind). The company selects products locally, right from the docks on the waterfront in New Bedford, Mass., to sources all around the world. Northern Wind supplies the highest-quality scallops, mussels, lobster and salmon to national wholesalers.
Northern Wind was established in 1987 as a direct off-loader and processor of scallops. From the beginning, the company has been dedicated to consistently supplying customers with quality products at competitive prices. Over the years as Northern Wind grew, the company refined its ability to deliver a full range of fresh and frozen scallops, as well as a variety of other seafood. The company remains locally-owned and-operated by Ken Melanson and Michael Fernandes, hands-on co-owners of Northern Wind. For over a quarter century the duo has worked together to supply the highest-quality products.
Scallops are Northern Wind’s main product; the company processes 16 million-pounds of the shellfish annually. Delivering premium quality bay and sea scallops is Northern Wind’s top priority. Every product that leaves the company’s 120,000-square-foot HACCP-certified facility has been individually inspected to ensure quality and safety. The company’s popular brand, Sea Spray Scallops, delivers the freshest shellfish; harvested in cold North Atlantic waters and produced in accordance with USDC and FDA standards.
Northern Wind’s products offer top-of-the-catch freshness, longer shelf life, excellent taste and texture in addition to being available year-round. The supplier also offers farm-raised Chilean mussels and salmon, the sweetest, live hard-shell North Atlantic lobsters, low-fat, low-cholesterol monkfish and skate.
The company sells its products under several brands, including: Captain’s Call, Mariner’s Choice, Sea Spray Scallops, Ocean Requests and Bon Cuisine. The development of Bon Cuisine has added to Northern Wind’s value-added product line.
“Bon Cuisine is part of a push to expand our retail business,” explains Melanson, CEO of Northern Wind. “This project has been in the works for two years or so now. You can find it on the shelves of three to four large supermarket chains. Although 85 to 90 percent of our business is wholesaler based, this is all part of an effort to expand our retail side,”
These items consist of frozen appetizer finger foods, such as bacon wrapped scallops and spring rolls. Northern Wind is always looking to expand its product line, but also focuses on maintaining strong business partnerships both domestically and internationally.
Key Relationships from the Boat to the Table
Recently, the seafood importer and exporter established relationships with international suppliers. “We have contacts all over the world,” shares Melanson. “We buy direct from at least 50 boats in several different countries. I’ve traveled all over the world building relationships from Peru to Mexico, Europe and beyond.”
Northern Wind is also a well-known presence in its home town of New Bedford. “I’ve worked on the waterfront my whole life,” Melanson says. “I know 90 percent of the people down on the docks. I know all of the skippers, the captains and the owners. We treat them fair, they treat us fair and that’s how it works.”
Valued business partnerships have seen Northern Wind through tough economic times. Melanson attributes the company’s adaptability to sourcing from numerous countries. “Over the past decade we’ve actually experienced double-digit growth,” he details. “We anticipate the moving target markets and build strong relationships with seafood networks in Boston and abroad. When we sit down and look at a certain area we decide if we can produce at competitive prices.”
Good business partnerships start by working with the right people. “We find credit worthy companies that pay their bills,” shares Melanson. “We supply them with a great product and they pay us in a timely fashion. We’re really looking for partnerships not just transactions.”
Running a business that’s surpassed its goal of $100 million in revenue is no easy task. “We have our bumps in the road,” reveals Melanson. “But we just keep on truckin’. We just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Melanson admits the most difficult aspect of the business is keeping a heads-up on supply. “It comes down to needing the raw materials,” he describes. “We also have to look out for many regulations by the FDA and OSHA, but I think we’re pretty well-schooled in that, it’s all a part of doing business.”
The company keeps moving forward, recently moving into an additional facility to accommodate growth, serving as its only off-shore location. “Our goal was to reach $100 million, we’ve met that and surpassed it by a little,” details Melanson. “I think we’re as big as we want to be right now.” Northern Wind Inc. continues to provide the freshest, superior seafood products through direct supplier relationships and a selective mindset.