Bos Smoked Fish Inc.: Authentic Smoked Fish Specialties

Bos Smoked Fish Inc. (BSF) was born out of Rein Bos’ personal passion for fish. Bos moved to Canada from Urk, Holland, a small fishing village, in 1989. After a visit to a local farmers market with his brother-in-law, Jan, the duo had an idea to sell smoked fish at the Saturday market; Jan knew how to smoke fish and Rein was going to sell it. “We found a few old barrels and a built a smoker,” says Bos, president of BSF. “A few weeks later a stand was rented and up and running.”

The smoked fish proved to be a hit. “We soon rented a small older butcher shop to prepare for the five weekly markets,” Bos continues. “The big break was when we noticed retail stores buying their weekly supply for their retail. The next week we hit the road and went store to store.”

The company grew quickly from there. “We hired people, got trucks on the road and even got interest from south of the border,” he says. BSF moved to a new Woodstock, Ontario-based, state-of-the-art facility in January 1996, merging traditional techniques with the efficiency of modern food production methods to ensure Canadians everywhere can safely delight in the freshest seafood products.

“Our first smoked fish products were produced for the Eastern European communities here, but we have really extended our target markets over the years,” says Bos. Bos helped steer the company’s growth from a small retail operation to a family-owned and -operated production plant selling to major national supermarket chains in Canada and the United States. Bos left BSF in 2000 to pursue a career both importing and exporting worldwide, fittingly building experience in the worldwide seafood trade.

An opportunity came along to purchase BSF and that brought Bos back to the company in 2009, when he began the process of reorganizing BSF to fit the modern consumer. “We have been working hard with our great sales team and dedicated employees in the last three years and we are seeing a growth in the next few years,” Bos says. “We are working with new distributors both in the food service and retail markets. We have made changes to the way we sell, the way we ship, the way we store, the way we pack.”

The company has also added food service products, all of which have made a positive impact. “Our loyal customer base that has supported us over the years are our greatest asset,” says Bos proudly.

BSF's team of 20 employees happily process and package a selection of over 20 smoked fish products. And the company has reason to be pleased; BSF-branded products are sold in many national grocers and wholesalers in the United States, as well as a small handful of specialty grocers such as Starsky’s, which BSF supplies with bulk and retail-ready branded products.

Flexibility and Persistence

Part of BSF’s success over the years is attributed to the company’s flexibility. The first BSF products were produced primarily targeted to consumers from cultures that enjoyed smoked whole fish with bones, eyes, gills and scales left intact. However, the team’s genuine passion for fish propelled the company to add more consumer-friendly products that would appeal to a broader base, which seems to have been a good move.

Of course, the extra processing drove BSF to invest in all new machinery to maintain its volume of output while keeping prices competitive. “We have been working with VC999 to supply all of our equipment for over 20 years,” says Bos.

“We have purchased specialized filleting equipment from Denmark, Germany and Norway in the last two years as well; our filleting machine is the only machine of its kind in the country,” he adds proudly. The idea is to make BSF’s production process as automated as possible in the hopes of increasing production capacity while keeping up with continually evolving food safety regulations, which BSF takes very seriously.

“The price of fish worldwide has gone up dramatically over the last few years and we need to be able to stay competitive,” expands Bos. Given Bos’ professional experience in global seafood sourcing it’s no surprise that BSF works in tandem with a well-established sister company, Bos Fish Inc., which specializes in importing and exporting a variety of fish. Bos Fish Inc. has proved as a valuable asset for times when domestic supply of certain fish species exceeds local demand, but it also enables BSF to mitigate risks in years when the domestic production can’t meet BSF’s needs.

For example, mackerel comes from the North Atlantic, which includes Newfoundland, Norway, Scotland and France. “Dealing with all the sources gives us a better buying flexibility,” explains Bos. “We have our own team that inspects product before it is shipped here. We started with the best raw product and continue to do so.”

Aside from its sister company, BSF works with distributors and transportation companies such as ERB Transport in Canada and the U.S. to bring its products to market, allowing the BSF team to constantly push for improvement with safety procedures. The facility itself is certified and regularly audited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and BSF employees are continually trained to keep up with changing food safety regulations. “Every shipment is inspected as soon as it comes off the boat and once again before it’s processed, and all of the processing and packaging happens in-house,” adds Bos.

Strict Quality Controls

Keeping the processing and packaging of products in-house enables the company to exercise greater control over every BSF product. The consolidation also came in handy when the unthinkable happened; in December 2011 BSF identified a possible contamination risk in some of its products that were accidentally sold without a “Best Before” date printed on the packaging. BSF coordinated with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency immediately and issued a recall notice on all of its products produced without an expiration date. There have thankfully been no reported illnesses associate with the products, but the event serves as an important reminder of the need for continual food safety training and diligent production and played a role in proving the BSF team’s ability to squash any potential problems.

“We’re preparing for a big push of growth for 2012,” says Bos. “Last year we got into the food service market and we plan on expanding that client base further this year since we will have the equipment to handle that kind of volume.” The company is proud to report that it also began selling its products under the BSF brand recently in 2012, which required a complete overhaul of the company’s packaging design and a total website redesign to soon follow.

With sparkling new equipment and a dedicated and hearty workforce that continues to prove up to any challenge, BSF is on track to find further opportunity for growth. As the company’s brand gains traction, Bos Smoked Fish Inc. will ensure that specialty smoked products are enjoyed for years to come, allowing Rein Bos to bring the lovingly crafted tastes of one home to another.