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In Edible-Alpha® podcast #71, Tera talks to Adam Bent, co-founder and CEO of Scout Canning, a Toronto, Ontario-based craft cannery launched in December 2018. This impact-driven company is revolutionizing the North American canned seafood market by celebrating a variety of locally harvested species—not just tuna—and shortening the supply chain, both of which help protect fragile ocean ecosystems.
To start, Tera and Adam discussed how the canned seafood market has seen almost no innovation over the last several decades. Canned tuna, in part because it’s so cheap, remains the most popular species consumed from a can—and the second-most consumed seafood overall, behind only shrimp. The problem, as Adam explained, is the fish is predominantly caught overseas, where the supply chain is murky, labor conditions are terrible and ocean health isn’t prioritized.
In co-founding Scout Canning, he and Chef Charlotte Langley, a seafood specialist and chef ambassador for Marine Stewardship Council, aimed to do things entirely differently—with integrity, purpose and a focus on sustainability. They are on a mission to move more seafood to the center of the plate by proving that shelf-stable canned products can be just as delicious and nutritious as fresh and frozen. They present a variety of tasty species to broaden consumer palates beyond tuna, dressing them up in rich oils, herbs and seasonings.
But what really differentiates this company is that instead of importing seafood or buying from commodity markets, Scout Canning sources directly from MSC-certified fisheries and aquaculture operations in North America, ensuring a traceable, sustainable supply chain. Through its engaging branding and top-quality products, Scout educates consumers on the issues plaguing our oceans and their connection to climate change.
Like most every food brand, Scout Canning has been impacted by COVID-19. The products were set to launch at Natural Products Expo West, which didn’t happen, forcing a pivot in distribution and marketing strategy. The company still landed key retail partnerships but also put more muscle behind its e-commerce strategy than originally planned. This has worked out swimmingly so far, with consumers clamoring for the canned seafood and even asking for a subscription option.
The pandemic has also benefited Scout Canning in unexpected ways. In the early days, when consumers feared food shortages and panic-purchased shelves empty, demand for shelf-stable foods like Scout’s skyrocketed. Also, in speaking to our shaken nation, respected media outlets, influencers and culinarians touted canned seafood’s immense value, shining the spotlight on this oft-overlooked category.
Although his brand’s launch looked different than expected, because Scout Canning is still small and nimble, it could change course when necessary and find success. The company is starting important conversations around sustainability and already transforming the stale category it was founded to disrupt. These wins show that, with purpose, resiliency and flexibility, emerging brands can indeed make a major impact, even during the unsteady coronavirus era.