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Ducktrap River Plans $4.5M Expansion to Meet Growing Demand
04/19/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

A Belfast fish company will soon begin a multi-million dollar expansion of its production plant in the midcoast city. Ducktrap River of Maine has been in operation since 1978. The company ships its smoked salmon and other seafood products to grocery chains, high-end markets and wholesalers. As Jay Field reports, rising demand for smoked salmon nationwide is driving the company's need for more space and more workers.

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The salmon arrives packed in white styrofoam, 10 farm-raised fillets to a box, straight from Chile, the Shetland Islands or Iceland. To see how they become tasty, reddish-orange slabs - vacuum-sealed and ready to ship - you have to get dressed up. Don Cynewski is Ducktrap River's General Manager.

"We don't have a lot of competition among employees, as to who's the best dressed or who has their hair made up the nicest or is wearing the most make up, that's for sure," Cynewski says.

As he says this, Cynewski hands me blue plastic booties, a hair net and a white lab coat to wear. When your business is cold smoked fish, your brand, bottom line - everything, really - depends on proper sanitation to ward off bacteria.

A slicing machine inside the packing room dices salmon filets, two at a time. Around 40 workers, including Samwel Waithaka, do final inspections and some trimming, before packaging.

"We do the ouncing whereby we have, sometimes, eight ounce, four ounce. We seal it. We make sure that it is air tight," Waithaka says.

Ducktrap's revenues have grown from $17 million to $30 million annually over the past three years. But now, demand for smoked salmon has reached the point where the company can barely keep up.

"We've added 20 people over the last year, we're really, this room is at about 110, 155 percent of capacity probably anyways. We need some more space just for what we're doing," Cynewski says.

This month, Don Cynewski says Ducktrap will begin a $4.5 million expansion to create that additional space. Ducktrap's parent, Norwegian seafood conglomerate Marine Harvest, is financing the project. The slicing and packing room will get bigger.
"This whole end of the building will go down another hundred feet," he says.

We've moved on now to the smoking room. The enormous kilns here haven't been able to keep up with demand, despite running round-the-clock, six days a week. So the company is adding another one. The smell of in this part of the plant makes your mouth water.

Jay Field: "I can't stay here for very long!"

Cynewski: "You want to eat some of it."

As part of the expansion, Ducktrap expects to add as many as 50 people to its workforce of 120 over the next two years.

"It's like a family here." Samwel Waithaka, who's originally from Kenya, began working at Ducktrap in 2009. He's not surprised by the company's recent growth.

"We have had good management," he says. "Our supervisors, our team leaders, they have been great in making sure that at least we are consistent. We have been able to work as a team and we have been able to raise the standards of this company."

Ducktrap's 21,000-square-foot expansion is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1.



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