Gorton's of Gloucester
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|Headquarters||Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States|
|Judson Reis, CEO|
|Parent||Nippon Suisan Kaisha|
|Slogan||Trust the Gorton's Fisherman|
Gorton’s of Gloucester is a subsidiary of the Japanese seafood conglomerate Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd., producing fishsticks and other frozen seafood for the retail market in the United States. Gorton’s also has a North American food service business which sells to fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s, and an industrial coating ingredients operation. It has been headquartered in Gloucester, Massachusetts, since 1849.
The company traces its roots to a fishery called John Pew & Sons. William Pew, son of John Pew, picked up fishing after serving as a Colonial soldier in the French and Indian War. While most people moved West after the war, Pew turned eastward and arrived in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1755. The father-and-son fishery business emerged as an official commercial company, John Pew & Sons, in 1849.
When nearby Rockport’s chief industry, the Annisquam Cotton Mill, burned down, Slade Gorton, the mill’s superintendent, was out of a job. At his wife’s urging, he began a fishing business in 1874 known as Slade Gorton & Company, and began to pack and sell salt codfish and mackerel in small kegs. This company was the first to package salt-dried fish in barrels. In 1899, the company patented the “Original Gorton Fish Cake.” In 1905, the Slade Gorton Company adopted the fisherman at the helm of a schooner (the “Man at the Wheel”) as the company trademark. Today, he is known as the Gorton’s Fisherman.
In 1906, Slade Gorton & Company and John Pew & Sons and two other Gloucester fisheries merged into the Gorton-Pew Fisheries. They made Gorton’s codfish cakes a household name in New England. The company offices were located at 372 Main Street, Gloucester, in the same building where Gorton’s Main Office is located today.
The company went into the fish-freezing business in the early 1930s. In 1949, Gorton-Pew made headlines when it drove the first refrigerator trailer truck shipment of frozen fish from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, California – a trip that took eight days. In 1953, the company was the first to introduce a frozen ready-to-cook fish stick, Gorton’s Fish Sticks, which won the Parents Magazine Seal of Approval.
In 1957, Gorton-Pew Fisheries name was changed to Gorton’s of Gloucester; in 1965, it became The Gorton Corporation, and it is now known as Gorton’s. In 1968, Gorton’s merged with General Mills, Inc., as a wholly owned subsidiary.
In May 1995, Unilever bought Gorton’s from General Mills. In August 2001, Unilever sold Gorton’s and BlueWater Seafoods to Nippon Suisan (USA), Inc., a subsidiary of Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd., for US$175 million in cash.
- 1849 – John Pew & Sons emerges as an official company
- 1874 – Slade Gorton & Company is founded
- 1875 – “Gorton’s” becomes a registered trademark
- 1889 – Gorton’s codfish becomes the first record of nationally advertised fish and Gorton’s codfish becomes a household word. Gorton’s billboards line railroads and roads across the United States
- 1899 – Slade Gorton & Company patents the Original Gorton Fish Cake
- 1906 – Gorton-Pew Fisheries is founded
- 1926 – Gorton-Pew introduces Gorton’s Ready-to-Use Codfish in a can
- Late 1950s - Gorton’s Research Laboratory achieved a revolutionary new frozen process, exclusive under the brand name of Gorton’s of Gloucester, Inc., known as the Fresh-Lock Process. The “Fresh Lock” process was patented in 1963
- 1957 – Gorton-Pew Fisheries name changes to Gorton’s of Gloucester
- 1963 – Gorton’s acquires BlueWater Sea Foods, a Canadian brand
- 1964 – The Gorton’s Fisherman first appears on a Gorton’s box, which was a blue silhouette for many years until changing to a 3D color illustration in 1995
- 1965 – Gorton’s of Gloucester becomes The Gorton Corporation
- 1968 – Gorton’s merges with General Mills as a wholly owned subsidiary
- 1978 – First production of the Gorton’s jingle “Trust the Gorton’s Fisherman from Gorton’s of Gloucester”, later shortened to “Trust the Gorton's Fisherman”
- 1995 – Unilever purchases Gorton’s from General Mills
- 2001 – Unilever sells Gorton’s and BlueWater Seafoods to Nippon Suisan (USA), Inc.
- 2005 – Gorton's removed trans fat from its entire line of products one year ahead of the January 1, 2006 U.S. federal deadline
Gorton’s purchases a wide variety of seafood raw materials, of which Alaska Pollock, a fish native to the Bering Sea, is the most important and primary source of supply. This resource is managed under provisions of United States federal law that require rigorous scientific assessment of the condition of the fishery and conservative catch allowances. The quota each season is only a small fraction of the total available resource, and all players (whether vessel operators or legislators) take an active role to see that the rules governing the harvest are followed.
In 2005, Gorton’s came under attack from the Environmental Investigation Agency, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Greenpeace, due to their parent company’s involvement in whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. These groups hoped that international companies owned by Nippon Suisan Kaisha (such as Gorton’s) would persuade their parent company to stop supporting whaling if they were put under enough pressure. Eventually, Nippon Suisan Kaisha agreed to divest its ownership in the company that owned the whaling fleet. Greenpeace hailed this as a victory and the boycott of Gorton’s ended.
The iconic slogan, "Trust the Gorton's Fisherman," produced in 1978, and the familiar yellow slicker and beard has made the Gorton's Fisherman a recognizable pop culture icon. In particular the Gorton’s Fisherman, has been featured on The Late Show with David Letterman numerous times and as a response on Jeopardy!.
- Official retail website
- BlueWater Seafoods, Gorton's subsidiary in Canada
- See Food Differently, an August 2004 trade magazine story about Gorton's
- Unilever sells seafood business, an August 2001 article
- Gorton's on Protecting their Resources
- America's Oldest Seaport, a short film about Gorton's and Gloucester