Royal Star Foods

The finest in Canadian seafood

Royal Star Foods, based in Prince Edward Island, is focused on offering the finest seafood available in the market. The company supplies its seafood to a worldwide market, catching lobster and pelagics for more than 84 years.

In the industry, pelagics fisheries refer to those that catch from ocean waters. In Canada, fishing for lobster is a challenging, but lucrative industry. Lobster represents Canada’s most valuable seafood export, and made up $924,173,663 of export value in 2008. More than 59 countries around the world eat Canadian lobster. Royal Star Foods has long succeeded in this seafood delicacy, and the company produces their very own “Star of the Sea” brand products. The company is a subsidiary of a cooperative called the Tignish Fisheries Co-op Association, and Royal Star Foods are in fact the oldest processing facility in the country.  Products are produced in a locally-owned facility by “quality-minded people.”

The cooperative is comprised of 180 members, and all are exclusive to the company. At peak periods, Royal Star Foods employs 290 employees, which according to CEO Francis Morrissey “is very beneficial to the community because we live in the rural part of P.E.I. and jobs are scarce.”

“We’re lucky enough to have a natural resource that has been here for over 100 years, and our lobster and crab stock is very healthy,” Morrissey adds. The company turns over $30-35 million in revenue a year.  

Quality and regulation

Royal Star has one of the newest processing plants in eastern Canada, and it meets all Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards, Morrissey explains. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates compliance with product and process standards, in this case, in seafood, “that contribute to the acceptable quality, safety and identity of fish and seafood products that are processed in federal establishments or imported into Canada.” The organization plays a crucial role in food processing and Royal Star heeds to the critical standards that have been set. “The plant is monitored on a weekly basis by CFIA and our own people in house,” Morrissey says. CFIA activities include the registration of federal fish processing establishments, inspection of imported products, developing and maintaining international arrangements with regards to inspection, label regulations and testing.

By adhering to national standards, Royal Foods can maintain its brand reputation and uphold its values. The company has a process that enables the quality of the seafood they offer to excel. For lobster, the company processes the product in a holding facility that has a capacity to hold 450,000 pounds for a month. “It is all filtered sea water, refrigerated,” Morrissey says.

Product demand

Part of the Star of the Sea brand is producing other products as well, though lobster processing is the biggest part of the company’s business. They also offer snow crab, broad crab, do a large amount of herring and mackerel, and also process blue fin tuna.

“On the processing side of it, we do everything from live sales, raw tails, whole cooked lobster, lobster meats and split lobster tails,” Morrissey says, and the company’s markets span from Europe and Japan to the U.S. and Asia. “For snow crab there are two markets: Europe and Japan. On the herring side there is demand for whole herring, and a herring base in the Japanese market. Mackerel is the same: both whole and frozen.”

Of course, seafood fishing is an industry that is only in hard demand for parts of the year. The season for Royal Star is about seven months of the year (including production). The other months seafood is not in production because the Gulf freezes over in winter and fishermen are not fishing. “We only keep a skeleton work force during the winter,” Morrissey explains.

Naturally, the economy’s downturn had an affect in P.E.I. where many seasonal industries suffered. “Prices in raw product dropped because the selling prices dropped,” Morrissey says. “This had a big impact on the fishermen. When the economy drops, the price of lobster drops.”  However, it hasn’t all been bad news.

“There is always a silver lining in the cloud; [the recession] opened up a lot of new markets because when the price went down a lot of restaurants put lobster back on the menu. In terms of moving product, demand is great because the price is down. Now the plan is to move the price slowly back up to the point where the fishermen can make a living without scaring the customer off. That’s the trick to it,” he continues.

Royal Star’s business model incorporates selling their product through larger brokers and some wholesalers, but 75 per cent of the company’s product ends up at larger restaurant chains like Red Lobster, Outback Steakhouse, etc. The company uses brokers in some other companies, for example in Japan, where much of their blue fin tuna goes—the company has dealt with one company exclusively there for years.

Goals for the future

Morrissey says that the company is always looking to grow and expand. “We are always looking for ways to extend our season. We are working on two new products right now that will be introduced into the marketplace next year,” he elaborates.

What’s is of critical importance to Morrissey is that he is bringing work to people of P.E.I. “Something we are really proud of is what we have done in P.E.I. There isn’t a lot of work here and it is very hard to get work—so a lot of people depend on this company to make a living.”

The company offers a program to students where grade 12 students go to Royal Star to work in the summer. “We have as many as 57 who work for us; it is big part of them being able to further their education. Other than Royal Star, there isn’t much for students to do for work during the summer to help them pay for their education,” he says. “We’re avid supporters and happy to have them, they are great workers.” The company also employs high school students, showing their commitment to community.

With a superior quality to offer the market, there are no obstacles that can’t be faced by Royal Star Foods. Look for their outstanding products in a grocery store or restaurant near you.