Aleutian Sockeye Finds a Market With Full Circle Farms

Sockeye on ice. (Credit Mike Mason/KDLG)
Sockeye on ice. (Credit Mike Mason/KDLG)

Aleutian sockeye has found a new niche market through the organic food delivery company Full Circle Farms.

Full Circle’s main business is sending out boxes of organic fruits and vegetables to its customers in California and the Pacific Northwest.

In recent years they’ve added a selection of other groceries. And now, for $9.35 per 6-8 oz fillet, Full Circle subscribers can get Aleutian sockeye salmon in their weekly box.

‘Aleutia’ is a non-profit, community-based brand of sockeye harvested by 30-some fishermen around the eastern Aleutians and western Alaska peninsula.

It was started back in 2001 by a group of fishing families hoping to get better prices.

One of those fishermen, Aleutia’s Vice President Danny Cumberlidge, says the organization has always emphasized quality rather than quantity.

“We were some of the first to start with slush ice… we started the live bleeding, the slush ice, any capacity under 1000 pounds,” Cumberlidge said.

Cumberlidge says icing the fish and treating each one with care makes for a higher-quality product.

And his market seems to agree. Last year Aleutia reached out to Full Circle Farms’s product manager Debra Dubief. She says gets phone calls from people wanting to sell their products all the time.

“After speaking with people from Aleutia, I loved their story but I said, the thing is, it has to be an amazing product, like all of our products have to be,” Dubief said. “She sent me a few samples, we all tasted it, it was wonderful, taken care of pristinely, some of the best frozen salmon I’ve ever had.”

So the Aleutia brand had the quality piece figured out.

Its second major selling point for Full Circle was convenience. Dubief says Aleutia salmon arrives frozen, so customers don’t have to cook it up that same night. And it comes in individual portion sizes.

“Aleutia does a really good job of portioning to our size needs. And that’s something that’s unique to FCF… we can’t sell fish by the pound, we need to sell it by the unit. So they cut everything to our specifications, wrap it perfectly, it’s a beautiful product,” Dubief said.

And when a customer unwraps that fillet, Full Circle hopes they’ll think about the story behind it.

“We aren’t making a lot of money on this, we’re giving it back to the community,” Cumberlidge said. “That’s our structure. We are not a cannery. We’re a niche market, high-quality organization. If we get a little better price, we give that back to our fishermen.”

Full Circle says their customers want to know that their food is good, not only for their health, but good for the land and sea and the people who produce it.

And that, says Cumberlidge, lines up with Aleutia’s mission.

“The biggest thing I think it does is it puts more pride back into the community and the fisherman,” Cumberlidge said. “When I started fishing at eight years old you were proud to be a fisherman. You know, we’re instilling more of that pride back into the young people that, hey, I do a good thing, I feed the world.”

Both Full Circle and Aleutia are betting that what customers really want alongside their organic lettuce is this story – the story of sustainable, impeccable salmon that supports a community and a way of life.