Company principles talk new products and a new-hire with a seafood pedigree

“Back in the day, he was a competitor. We competed for fish.”

That’s how Keith Singleton described Ivan Svasand, the new R&D project manager for Alaskan Leader Seafoods’ Value Added Divisions.

“I haven’t been this excited to work with a group of people in a long time,” Svasand told National Fisherman. “There are so many opportunities for growth here, and they’re already expanding more than they expected. I see what I can bring to the table to expand it even more. And they’re trusting my experience and background.”

Svasand, 58, has been in the industry since he started fishing with his dad at the age of 10. He broke his back in a skiing accident at 22, which “got me out of fishing and got me into logistics, marketing and sales,” Svasand says. “And that really started my career.” Now almost 50 years later, he’s bringing those chops to Alaskan Leader Seafoods.

Scott Sandvig and Keith Singleton have been together in the wheelhouse of Alaskan Leader Seafoods for more than seven years.

“Ivan Svasand knows fish, knows boats, knows processing,” Alaskan Leader’s Scott Sandvig added. “It helps us stay focused, knowing we have the right guy in place. He’s a great addition to the team. And we’re thrilled to have him launching into 2022.”

And launching they are. We caught up with Singleton and Sandvig as the duo was headed north to Canada on top-secret R&D reconnaissance for a new recipe soon to debut at Seafood Expo North Atlantic, March 13-15, in Boston.

“We are excited to debut five products in Boston to the global market, including two that have not been seen before,” Singleton told NF.

Two of those products took awards in the Seattle round of the Alaska Symphony of Seafood, announced at Pacific Marine Expo — the Seattle People’s Choice award for Alaskan Leader’s Wild Caught Alaska Black Cod and the Bristol Bay Choice award for Wild Caught Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon.

Keith Singleton of Alaskan Leader accepted the Bristol Bay Choice Award from Lilani Dunn and Andy Wink of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. Doug Stewart photo

Now the Alaskan Leader team is getting ready to head east, where those products and all other symphony winners will enter the Seafood Expo North Atlantic New Product Showcase.

“We’re going!” said Singleton said of the Boston show. “And we’re going to meet all the protocols that Diversified Communications has prepared for us.”

Those precautions, he adds, are working in other places.

Seafood Expo North Atlantic onsite protocols

“Divcom did a great job at Pacific Marine Expo,” Singleton told NF. “I don’t think there’s a fisherman out there who said: ‘Oh I wish I didn’t go!’”

Diversified Communications runs both Seafood Expo North Atlantic and Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, which went off without a hitch in November 2021 after a 2020 hiatus.

“We expect to have a full team in place in Boston,” Singleton added. “We feel the rules are in place for a reason, and we’re going to adhere to them so we can have a successful show.”

Scott Sandvig accepts the Seattle People’s Choice Award at the Alaska Symphony of Seafood in Seattle in November.

The market opportunities offered in one location at a global trade show like Boston’s Seafood Expo are a draw for any company on the move, but the pump is primed after a two-year hiatus and many eager to get back to some of the more traditional streams of business.

“We’re looking forward to seeing our customers and debuting our new products,” Sandvig noted. “Buyers don’t want to miss out on new opportunities. These are the types of events that catapult us to the next level.”

The trade show floor in Boston can open the door for established companies, as well as start-ups, that managed to capitalize on market shifts over the last two years and are well positioned for growth.

“2021 was a great year for us with e-commerce and expansion into retail and club stores.” Singleton told NF. “The demand is there, and we have the capacity. And that’s why we brought in a legendary fish guy with Ivan.”

Not content to rest on their laurels, the Alaskan Leader Seafoods team is looking to expand the company’s reach as well as its product line.

Alaskan Leader Seafoods won the Seattle People’s Choice Award in the Alaska Symphony of Seafood this year with its new Wild Caught Alaska Black Cod.

“Hook and line primarily is our premiere whitefish brand — cod, halibut and blackcod,” said Singleton, noting that the company is also sourcing Alaska salmon.

We put the engine together, and we needed a good race car driver,” Singleton told NF. “We need guys that know fish. As we expand into more gear types and deeper into Alaska’s fleets, Ivan’s the best fish guy we could ever ask for.”

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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