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Slade Gorton & Co. Inc.: Going to Any Length to Ensure Premium Seafood
Slade Gorton & Co Inc. (Slade Gorton) takes pride in knowing that no other company in the United States comes close to matching the breadth of its product selection in fresh, frozen or value-added premium seafood products. The family-owned and -operated company works with a network of more than 500 suppliers in 63 countries to bring the finest seafood from around the world to America’s table through many of the country’s retailers, distributors and chain restaurants. As one of the largest importers, distributors and manufacturers of wholesome, nutritious and sustainable food from the ocean, Slade Gorton goes to every length to ensure customers consistent availability and product integrity, building on a multigenerational commitment to feeding America.
Thomas Slade Gorton Jr. established Slade Gorton in 1928, having spent his teenage years as a fisherman’s apprentice harvesting all the best the Great Banks off Newfoundland had to offer. Even then the Gorton family’s history in the seafood industry stretched back three generations to 1849, and today Slade Gorton builds off of a five-generation legacy in the seafood industry.
Investing in old trades and new technologies, Slade Gorton maintains headquarters and a manufacturing plant in Boston with additional sales offices in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Elgin, Ill.; and Los Angeles, Calif. It also operates additional manufacturing plants in Ft. Lauderdale and in Sparks (Reno), Nev., to extend distribution from coast to coast.
Slade Gorton offers a product selection spanning some 100 species of seafood – high volume, highly demanded products complemented by regional and seasonal specialties – and a team of more than 350 associates. The company continually invests its efforts to drive inefficiency out of the supply chain, lower costs, improve operating margins and ensure the highest levels of service for its customers. It works simultaneously to pursue innovation in product development, traceability, food safety and advance the industry’s best practices across a wide array of disciplines. Most importantly, however, is an underlying belief that Slade Gorton’s greatest responsibility and challenge is to continually adapt to changing consumer trends, customer requirements and global supply and demand dynamics.
“Everything we do – from product development, sourcing, distribution, manufacturing, packaging and marketing – is done with the consumer experience in mind,” expands Kim Gorton, president and CEO of Slade Gorton. “We actually work backward from that consumer experience to design our supply chain and all of our programs, in order to address not only what the consumer wants, but what our clients need to ensure our products contribute to an enjoyable dining experience.”
Slade Gorton supplies its superior quality seafood and support services to foodservice distributors and wholesalers, as well as to club stores, supermarkets and chain restaurant operators. The company supplies fresh and frozen seafood products through the ICYBAY brand, while the Gourmet Bay, Sonoma Seafoods and Seafood Made Simple brands represent Slade Gorton’s premium seafood entrée selection sold through food service distributors, retailers and club stores nationwide. Quality, freshness, flavor and food safety reign supreme across all divisions and brands under the Slade Gorton umbrella. The product selection continues to evolve as the Slade Gorton team experiments with new preparations, flavor profiles and cuisines that make the most of each season’s harvest, as well as keep the company’s offerings fresh and on-trend.
Advancing an Industry
Throughout its operations, the company keeps focused on the sustainability of its seafood products, not just because of increasing consumer awareness, but also out of an ingrained respect for the Earth’s resources. Slade Gorton commits to ensuring its network of loyal seafood suppliers continually work to pursue and adopt industry best practices, whether through aquaculture methods, responsible harvesting or investing in greater traceability. The company furthermore refuses to source any product from a farm or fishery with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices of any kind in order to leverage its considerable purchasing power to encourage suppliers to pursue credible, documented improvements. “We recognize that we are a part of something much bigger,” expands Gorton. “It might be because we are also a family-owned company, but we believe that we not only help fulfill a basic, life-sustaining human need, but that it is our responsibility to ensure we provide something wholesome, nutritious and sustainable.”
Similarly, Slade Gorton aims to stay well ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety. It significantly increased its investments in food safety roughly five years ago, by Gorton’s account, because the company sees food safety as equally important to the quality of the final product. The Safe Quality Food Institute certified Slade Gorton’s manufacturing plants according to its Level III standards, the Institute’s highest distinction, making Slade Gorton one of only a handful of seafood companies in the U.S. to achieve such certification. Certification requires a rigorous annual audit to ensure each certified party adheres to certain practices that ensure the product’s safety, integrity, authenticity, traceability and overall quality.
Slade Gorton is committed to providing its customers with the finest catch through both their wild-caught offerings and through strategic sustainable farming partnerships. In 2011, Slade Gorton partnered with W.F. Gray, another storied family-owned company operating one of North America’s largest and oldest salmon hatcheries and more recently, marine farming sites in Newfoundland. Together, the pair has brought to market what they believe is the highest quality, most sustainably ocean-raised and all-natural farmed Atlantic salmon in the world, using a proprietary all-natural feed for the fish that enhances the gorgeous orange-pink color of the salmon flesh without the need for any artificial colorings, antibiotics or growth hormones whatsoever. “Our partnership is all about how we can go about producing a naturally healthy, delicious and sustainable product that consumers will enjoy,” asserts Gorton. “The W.F. Gray family shares our core values and a commitment to bringing wholesome and delicious seafood to the market.”
On top of its investments in innovation, food safety and strategic partnerships, the company doubled down on its efforts to ensure continuous improvement toward a fully sustainable supply chain by partnering with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) in 2010. It also secured certification through the Best Aquaculture Practices program for two of its manufacturing and processing plants in 2012. The company’s Boston and Ft. Lauderdale facilities can handle or process catfish, tilapia and salmon, and the Boston facility is certified to process Pangasius, a genus of mild-flavored white-flesh fish. The company also achieved certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise in 2012 through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
Meanwhile, the Slade Gorton team introduced ThermaFresh packaging across its manufacturing and fresh supply operations as a biodegradable, recyclable and lighter alternative to traditional Styrofoam packaging. As an added bonus, the ThermaFresh products offers leak-proof, air transport-approved containers that are guaranteed to preserve freshness at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 48 hours.
Raising the Bar
Next up for the Slade Gorton team will be expanding the product line once again. As of 2012 the final details were being laid out for the new Seafood Made Simple brand of consumer-friendly products. The products are developed and packaged to help consumers prepare healthy, wholesome, delicious seafood meals, ensuring a more consistently enjoyable seafood dining experience at home.
“Until recently, vacuum packaging technology had not advanced to a point where the Food and Drug Administration allowed fresh seafood to be vacuum packaged,” expands Gorton. “We now have the technology to safely vacuum package our fresh products, which has allowed us to get creative with the packaging and really highlight the fish itself.”
Whether through investments in sustainability and food safety, pioneering packaging or new, innovative seafood products, Slade Gorton has found the seafood industry holds a wealth of opportunities to explore in the company’s pursuit of bringing seafood from around the world to America’s table. Remaining equally humble and passionate about its role in introducing proactive initiatives, Slade Gorton & Co. Inc. builds a brighter, more responsible future for the seafood industry.