In 2021, Bensenville, Ill.-based Fortune Fish & Gourmet found itself in a dilemma.
Because of limited crab supplies due to a new Alaskan catch quota, Fortune found itself hustling to find product to fill orders and keep prices at levels the market could bear.
The solution was a supply of snow crab product from Russia. Then 2021 turned into 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and suddenly there were obvious problems with sourcing crab or anything else from Russia.
“We were stuck with all this Russian crab and weren’t sure what to do with it,” said Keane Amdahl, a Fortune marketing director. “The general consensus was: People don’t want to buy Russian crab.”
But Fortune already had abundant supplies, purchased before the invasion. Throwing it all away wasn’t a responsible thing to do, either.
“We’re committed to not sourcing any more Russian product, but you can’t let what you have go to waste,” Amdahl said.
The solution the company came up with was to create a big promotion at Fortune’s Coastal Seafoods retail stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. Russian crab is being sold at a good price point and Fortune is donating 25% of the proceeds of it to World Central Kitchen’s efforts to provide Ukrainians affected by the war with hot meals.
Fortune Retail Director Christopher Blankenbaker said that Alaska has historically has been the largest market to domestically source the product from.
“Before the war, Alaska was short on crab due to a massive 88% reduction in catch quotas,” he said. “Knowing that we have all this product and not wanting it to go to waste, we wanted to make sure we did the right thing with it and offer our own modest support to the people of Ukraine.”
The promotion will last until the product runs out — Fortune is hoping by year’s end, Amdahl said.
Fortune has not been shy about drawing attention to the promotion and the good that’s being done because of it.
“We’ve been promoting it on multiple fronts,” Amdahl said. “We have some messaging in our newsletter, pop-ups on our website, signage in stores. We’ve put Ukraine flag stickers on it to help customers ID it and also done some local media to try to get the word out.”
In a sushi class in early August Coastal hosted, chefs used Russian crab to make California rolls.
“We’re keeping it very much at the forefront of what we’re doing,” Amdahl said. “We’ve had a lot of good conversations with customers, and everyone seems to get it. It’s been very well received. This has been our big focus. And we have a Ukrainian population here in the Twin Cities that has supported the effort pretty well.”
Founded in 2010 by celebrity chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters and other global calamities.
Coastal Seafoods hopes to donate up to $100,000 from the efforts. Coastal Seafoods will also feature the crab in a variety of ways through the end of the year, including in-store specials, features in their Minneapolis Café, special events, and more.
“Our commitments to any Russian sourced product were made in 2021 and well in advance of the invasion of Ukraine,” said Fortune’s president, Sean O’Scannlain, “As a company, Fortune Fish & Gourmet and Coastal Seafoods stand in support of Ukraine and all global trade sanctions made against Russia and will not be engaging in further trade or procurement from Russian sources.”