When it comes to fresh fish, Meijer isn’t casting its line too far away from its shoppers. But it’s casting an awful lot of them.
The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer estimates its 230 stores across the Midwest are serving up about a half-million pounds of Great Lakes fish — primarily walleye, yellow perch and whitefish — annually.
According to La Nassa Foods, a commercial fishing company that provides much of that haul for Meijer, that figure makes Meijer the largest seller of perch and walleye in its region.
It’s been a good relationship for the fishermen as well. According to Tony Giacalone, president of La Nassa, the Kingsville, Ontario-based company has grown from the smallest commercial fish processor on Lake Erie to the largest over the course of 18 years supplying fish to Meijer. LaNassa over that period expanded from three fishing vessels and 35 employees to 11 ships and 105 employees, he added.
The companies said it was the longest running partnership between Meijer and a single local fish company.
David Wier, seafood buyer at Meijer, told SN that lake fish are particularly popular with Meijer shoppers “because it’s the type of fish they grew up eating. They spent family vacations, camping trips and outings catching and preparing these types of delicious lake fish.”
LaNassa describes walleye as “an upscale delicacy … providing a sensational sweet flavor.” Perch is also sweet, tender and moist. Both are popular pan-fried or broiled, Weir said.
A key to the partnership, Wier said, is La Nassa’s alignment with Meijer’s sustainable seafood policy that offering products that are caught and farmed in the most responsible and sustainable way. The walleye and yellow perch caught by La Nassa for Meijer are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, an independent nonprofit organization that sets sustainable fishing standards.
“Just as we encourage recycling, less packaging and energy-saving practices in our stores to lessen our footprint, we recognize that there are steps that can be taken to ensure the seafood we provide our customers was harvested in an environmentally responsible manner,” Wier said. “That’s incredibly important to the future of our business, but also to the livelihoods of the fishermen we work with and the health of our lake ecosystems.”
The video below highlights the Meijer-La Nassa Foods partnership: