Captain Dan’s

Captain Dan’s Specialty Seafood - Hooked on quality

A major player in the fishery industry, as both a manufacturer and as an exporter, while employing about 500 to 600 people, Captain Dan’s has seen more than 15 years of business growth, beginning as a small processing company in 1994.

Processing east coast seafood, primarily lobster and snow crab, the company is run out of its main 60,000 square facility in the small town of Richibouctou-Village, New Brunswick, with its second operating base, about a quarter of the size, based in Cape Breton.

History in the making

Returning from college years ago and in need of a job, and as an adolescent of the seafood industry, it was a natural fit for Captain Dan’s President Normand Leblanc to follow that path.

“There was a bankrupt plant and then in 1994, the gentlemen that owned the plant gave me a job, with the building keys for a small deposit and we wrote a lease,” said Leblanc. “I was this young 23-year-old kid with a lot of energy. I didn’t have a whole lot of money, but I was able to put my resumé together and sell myself with my experience because I grew up in the industry.”

The company’s competitive landscape is now well established. “I think we’re well capitalized, well entrenched in different areas. We don’t put all our eggs in one basket and sell to one customer,” said Leblanc. “We have a great, diverse customer base in different areas, including food service, retail and distribution in different sectors of the United States.”

Product distribution

While its main distribution is throughout the U.S. and Canada, Captain Dan’s also does “quite a bit” of business in Asia and some in Europe, and the company is “definitely as competitive” as others in the industry.

Leblanc emphasizes that Captain Dan’s is more internally diversified and also where its products are sold. “A lot of my competition is only single species—we’re not just a lobster company. We do it all under one roof from lobster, to snow crab, to raw crab, to shrimps and so on, so we are multispecies.”

But it hasn’t always been thumbs up for Captain Dan’s. Like many companies, Captain Dan’s is just beginning to shed the impact left by the recession.
Company growth

“I didn’t have a crystal ball, but the signs were there, so when everything hit the fan, capital got restricted and—especially in lobster—you had depreciation of inventory levels of 40 and 50 per cent,” said Leblanc about the recession. “We were really lean at the time when the crash happened. We were sitting on cash and very little inventory, but I think we weathered the storm better than most in our industry.”

Logically, the effect caused by that economic downturn has the company weary when it comes to discussing future growth. Captain Dan’s takes a very calculated approach when considering expansion.

“The marketplace today is very volatile, obviously with what’s happened in the last couple of years, with currency fluctuations—you kind of scratch your head,” said Leblanc. “With that, there are more opportunities to grow than ever before, you just have to be very selective of how you go about doing it.
“If the right opportunity came along—and I’m not against growth—but we will pick our spots.”

For now, Captain Dan’s will continue to monitor its internal development.

“The first little while we were lucky to get a couple thousand pounds a day, and now there are days when we do in excess of 100,000 pounds a day,” added Leblanc. “For starting out being a very small company, we now do in excess of $60 million in sales.”
Future goals

Moving forward, sales of a quality product remain the goal at Captain Dan’s.

“We want to continue to be profitable and to put out a consistent, top quality product that people are going to enjoy,” Leblanc adds. “Most of our items are high-priced shell fish and when you go to a restaurant and have to pay 40 bucks for a lobster, you want a nice experience, to be wowed.”

An independent, private company built on the simple, yet discouragingly rare, business model of “quality first”, Captain Dan’s takes great pride and admiration in its product, never wavering from consistency and quality.

“Unfortunately, there are too many people in our industry that don’t carry the same standard as we do,” Leblanc emphasizes. “When we put stuff in our boxes with our brand name, we are very consistent. We stuck through that the last 16 years and that is what has made us successful, so we want to continue to do that.”

For more information, Captain Dan’s can be contacted by telephone at (506) 523-9792.