On behalf of my organization, the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, I recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Wellness Information Technology Association based
Company Profile Maine Coast, a live lobster distributor, was established in 2011 in York, Maine and has grown into a $40 million business. The company, which also has a location in Boston, Massachusetts, currently employs around 40 people and boasts 20,000-square foot facility space with holding capacity that can maintain 180,000 pounds of live lobster between the two locations. Maine Coast’s founder, Tom Adams, is a 30-year veteran of the industry and his passion for the business informs his involved approach to daily operations. Maine Coast has driven their success by combining innovative and traditional techniques, and much of the company’s supply comes from local and independent fishermen that use sustainable fishing to catch high quality lobster. In 2015, Maine Coast was named U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Exporter of the Year for Maine.
Exports Exporting product is an essential part of Maine Coast’s sales strategy making up nearly 50 percent of its business. Of those exports, 30-35 percent of the product is making its way into Asian markets like Korea, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. In Korea specifically, Maine Coast is seeing booming sales of its live lobsters. Korean consumers recognize that even within Maine’s iconic lobster industry, quality takes precedence.
Growth Maine Coast has been exporting to Korea since 2013 and their shipments have shown considerable growth over the last three years. Between 2013 and 2014, their sales to Korea experienced a $1.3 million increase and as of August 2016, sales have risen to $3.19 million. That represents a quarter of their total sales to all of Asia. The U.S.- Korea Free Trade Agreement has allowed Maine Coast Lobster to become a global competitor in the industry. In fact, when the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement caused a dip in the sales of U.S. lobster exports as a whole, Maine Coast’s export sales actually went up. Korean consumers prioritize quality products, and Maine Coast’s increased sales are truly a testament to the company’s commitment to delivering excellence.
Building Relationships Trade shows are an important way for Maine Coast to not only raise awareness about their brand but also to learn best practices for navigating potential markets. The company was originally approached by its Korean partner at a trade show and has seen great success in generating new contacts at these events. It recently had a strong showing at the Seafood Expo Asia in Hong Kong and has been approached by Korean businesses at Seafood Expo North America and Seafood Expo Global in Brussels.
Lessons Learned Maine Coast attributes much of its success to not only producing the high-quality lobster products that Koreans appreciate, but also to developing strong partnerships. Maine Coast builds strong alliances with trade organizations and other companies in the industry that can serve as guides for exporters looking to enter promising markets. Maintaining strong relationships with customers and attention to detail are also important aspects of how Maine Coast operates daily. At the company, executives and employees insist that the customer be involved every step of the way.
“Above all else, we consider our Korean partners to be great friends and our business with them has made us more competitive in the global marketplace. We are proud that the high quality of our products has paved the way to a successful business relationship with Korea.” – Annie Tselikis, Marketing Manager, Maine Coast
Select your state below for information on local resources that can help you take advantage of opportunities from the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. These resources include groups in both the public and private sector.
Semiconductors and components, Aerospace products, Chemicals
Communications equipment, Motor vehicles, Motor vehicle parts
In 2015, Korea was the United States’ 6th largest trading partner, while the United States was Korea’s 2nd largest.