Island food entrepreneur, Rob Morrison, has won $25,000 from Innovation PEI’s Ignition Fund through the Food Island Partnership Food Xcel program. The program started with 20 Island entrepreneurs, and eight finalists competed at the final pitch day in February.
The winning entry was Rob’s Covehead Seafoods Premium PEI Lobster Dip, which is packed with the meat of half a market-size lobster in every container.
Rob fishes lobster with his dad and his two sons out of Covehead Harbour. “I have easy access to lobster, and I am always playing around with new ways to serve it. My lobster dip was a favourite with friends and family.”
Rob realized that producing a value-added product could level out the yearly peaks and valleys in the price of lobster. “I know Tyson McInnis, who works at Food Island Partnership, and one day I called him. Tyson urged me to enter the Food Xcel program.”
Rob has a business degree from UPEI with a specialty in accounting, and he is also the Comptroller at the PEI Potato Board, so his background in finance was a great help when starting his business. At the Food Xcel program, Rob learned how social media can be an economical piece of a business marketing plan.
Rob also connected with Bio|Food|Tech, which helped nail down a formula of ingredients, resolve shelf life issues, develop nutritional information labeling, and test the product.
“Bio|Food|Tech staff have been very helpful. They have the expertise, the lab, and a federally approved facility to produce enough product for a test market. As we were testing, it became apparent that we needed to extend the shelf life by freezing, which means it is stable and can be shipped anywhere.”
Help with distribution
Covehead Seafoods Premium PEI Lobster Dip is available in Charlottetown at MR Seafoods, which distributes seafood across PEI and the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec, and the eastern US. “MR Seafoods has been awesome to deal with,” says Rob. “They were happy to carry my product and were supportive from the start. They did a test market in the store last Christmas, which was very popular with customers.
“I am also working to market the product with Chef Tyler Gallant and Christine Murnaghan, a product developer at Canada’s Smartest Kitchen.”
“I plan to tap into MR Seafoods’ distribution network, and will start marketing to restaurants and specialty seafood markets. With the winnings from the Food Xcel competition, I plan to buy processing equipment, move into the Annand Clams facility in Conway, PEI and ramp up production.
“I would like to use the expertise of Canada’s Smartest Kitchen to develop more flavours of lobster dip, and to work on ideas for other seafood products. I also want to educate consumers on other ways to serve the lobster dip, from a sauce on steak or fish to stuffing baked potatoes.”
Rob says his plans won’t keep him from going back on the water with his family. “No matter how well the business goes, I will still be fishing lobster.”
Food Island Partnership
Food Island Partnership is an industry-led organization tasked with growing the food industry through food cluster development on PEI. The Food Xcel program helps Islanders bring innovative food ideas to market.
Food Xcel is an initiative of Food Island Partnership along with funding partners including the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Innovation PEI, PEI Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, NSERC, and Springboard Atlantic.