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New Law Nets Its First Big Catch As Walmart, Linda Bean Ink Deal

ELLSWORTH — Strange as it may seem, the folks in Augusta may have got one right.

Last March, the Legislature passed a new law that allowed Maine lobster processors to expand the kinds of products they could create and market. The law went into effect on July 1, and last week in Rockland Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster announced a major deal to sell cooked, frozen lobster claws with pre-scored shells (sawn part way through to make them easy to snap open and eat) to retail giant Walmart.

According to the company, the new product will be available for the holiday season in more than 750 Walmart stores nationwide as well as in some Maine Walmart locations.

“Linda Bean is an aggressive promoter of Maine lobster, and Walmart is a huge market,” Department of Marine Resources (DMR) Commissioner George Lapointe said Monday afternoon. “My hat’s off to her.”

The Walmart deal is exactly what Maine processors envisioned when they pushed legislators to let them bring innovative, value-added lobster products to market that could compete with Canadian items.

Until July, Maine processors were able to offer only three kinds of products: whole frozen lobsters in the shell, whole raw lobster tails or whole claws and knuckles removed from the shell. A few processors also sold raw leg meat that the Richmond-based processor Shucks markets as “Maine Lobster Spaghetti.”

What they could not sell customers was, according to Emily Land, then chairman of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council and sales and marketing director for Portland Shellfish Co., was the product that Linda Bean is now selling to Walmart.

“The Canadians have been able to score claws. We can’t do that in Maine,” she said in April. “I could have sold containers and containers of scored claws to Hawaii last year, but I couldn’t take the order.”