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Hit the road Jack

Yihe's highly touted brand is no more.

At the 2015 Boston seafood show, the Alaskan Jack’s brand of value-added, consumer-packaged seafood made a loud debut with a big booth, press releases, and a Best New Retail award at the show.

The brand was a collaboration between troubled seafood company Yihe and sales and marketing company Resource 1. Under the terms of the agreement, Yihe produced the line, which was dominated by flavored wild Alaska salmon items, in both China and California, and Resource 1 built the brand and moved the product into retail outlets.

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At the time, I expressed some skepticism about the brand's ability to break into the market, but a year into the endeavor, according to Resource 1 and Yihe, Alaskan Jack's was selling beyond expectations.

Well, it ain’t selling no more.

While the company's website still haunts the Internet and the last remaining inventory is being cycled through retailers (most notably Walmart, who told me it deleted the entire line last year), the brand is for all intents and purposes dead, and neither Yihe CEO Steve Chen nor Resource 1 executives would give any details on the recent past or the future of the brand itself.

The relationship between Yihe and Resource 1 dissolved sometime last year, but again, Chen and Resource 1 would not provide details on that relationship (though some of them are available in court filings from a fight over money between the two).

Resource 1 Executive Vice President Michael Klein, who was the horsepower behind the brand rollout and sales strategy, would only say the company "no longer works with Steven Chen, and is not associated with any ongoing marketing-sales of Alaskan Jack’s brand."

It's a tight-lipped comment from a man who once said, “When you’re building a brand there’s not an ability to pause and reflect, analyze and then start planning again. You’re in a constant planning mode that’s several months, if not years, ahead of where you want to be with the brand.

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The launch of the brand and subsequent fanfare represented a rising from the ashes for Yihe, which was emerging from bankruptcy, trying to find its footing, and hoping to shake off a lot of negative press and perception.

At the 2015 Boston show, in the words of Klein -- “mission accomplished.”

He was referring to the revival of Yihe Corporation, which a year before was emerging from financial problems and promising a new future of product innovation. Resource 1 helped rescue Yihe with fresh financing and a new partnership.

But all of that work is gone now, demonstrating how quickly a brand can come and go, especially a seafood brand.

Yihe, itself, appears to still be in business but Chen did not confirm this with me.

Its website displays its Ocean Select and Ocean Eclipse product range.

But the meteoric rise of its Alaskan Jack's brand, which even had a moment on the QVC channel, has come to an end with much less glamour and fanfare than when it arrived.

Send your comments to john.fiorillo@intrafish.com.

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