Bruce Schultz | 3/12/2018 3:00:13 PM
Douglas Olander, a commercial fisherman in St. Mary Parish, is profiting from the Louisiana Direct Seafood marketing program. This effort created the “Vermilion Bay Sweet” brand to test-market various value-added specialty seafood packs in the Louisiana market.
Olander sells fresh frozen black drum filets in vacuum-sealed packages with the “Vermilion Bay Sweet” label at a premium price. Previously, he sold unprocessed black drum to wholesale buyers for considerably less money.
“It actually boosted sales of our fish. It more than tripled our sales,” Olander said of the program. “It just gives us additional money.”
Olander also is a shrimper, but he said the fish sales have become more profitable. Much of the new sales are to restaurants, he said. He had to hire two new employees to process the fish that his boats bring to the dock.
Olander credited Thomas Hymel, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant fisheries agent, for developing the program. “He’s helping a lot of the fishermen along the coast, to get them set up.”
Hymel said the program started about five years ago. It has been funded with grants from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Louisiana Office of Community Development.
He said the “Vermilion Bay Sweet” label was first used by shrimpers to sell deveined, peeled 26-30 count shrimp for a premium price. “This is the best of the best. It’s for more of a gourmet market.” His team has also packed wild catfish under the VBS label with great success and plan to do the same with crab and oysters during 2018.
Hymel said Olander saw the shrimp packages, and he wanted to try the same thing with fish. “We helped him figure out the processing, how to cut, package, freeze and sell the product. It’s a big part of his business now.”
The Louisiana Direct Seafood Program also helps link commercial fishers and consumers and allows for shrimp and other seafood purchases direct off the boat through the website louisianadirectseafood.com. Consumers seeking specialty value added seafood packs can also find those also listed on the LDS website.
Bruce Schultz is a writer and photographer with LSU AgCenter Communications.
(This article appears in the winter 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Douglas Olander, a commercial fisherman in St. Mary Parish, sells fresh frozen black drum filets in vacuum-sealed packages with the “Vermilion Bay Sweet” label at a premium price. Previously, he sold unprocessed black drum to wholesale buyers for considerably less money. Photo by Bruce Schultz