The following story was written by Heinen’s partner Elaine T. Cicora. Photography by Ashley Durand of Plate and Pen.
When it comes to Heinen’s history, there isn’t much that Tom Heinen doesn’t know. Yet ask the third-generation co-owner about the origins of Heinen’s Own Shrimp – sweet, crisp, and freshly steamed, chilling out in your local Heinen’s seafood case – and he will tell you straight out that he simply has no answer.
“Put it this way,” says Tom. “I’ve been at our stores for 45 years, and the decision to steam our own shrimp predates even me.”
But while the origins of the decision to offer freshly steamed, gourmet-quality, ready-to-eat shrimp may be shrouded in mystery, Tom is willing to take an educated guess. “It certainly aligns with my grandfather’s philosophy: Joe Heinen was dedicated to offering distinctive, innovative products to our shoppers that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
That’s clearly borne out by the fact that Heinen’s Own Shrimp has become a perennial best-seller, popular with customers for its sweetness, crispness, and convenience. Peeled, deveined, then briefly steamed and quickly chilled in-store, under the watchful eyes of Heinen’s fishmongers, the cool nuggets of wholesome goodness are ready to take home and indulge in – whether that means dunking them in cocktail sauce, tossing them on top of a salad, or perhaps adding them to a seasonal pasta dish.
“The market for these shrimp has really grown,” Tom confirms. “We sell a massive amount of them, especially around the holidays, when people like to get something special for their families.”
Heinen’s is known, of course, for providing top quality products all year ’round – and Heinen’s Own Shrimp are no exception. Responsibly sourced from trusted partners around the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and South America, Heinen’s Own Shrimp are farmed with the highest standards, following the aquaculture industry’s best practices. Among other things, that means no additives, preservatives, or moisture-retention chemicals like sodium tripolyphosphate, known to result in shrimp with a bouncy, rubbery texture.
That’s something you’ll never find in Heinen’s Own Shrimp, says Marty Gaul, Heinen’s long-time Director of Seafood. “This is a truly distinctive product,” says Marty. “As part of my job, I taste a lot of shrimp – and I always know when I’m eating one of Heinen’s Own, because it’s sweet, it’s crisp, and it’s just … so … so … good.”
It’s also convenient, she adds. “You stop by the seafood case, you pick up your shrimp, you get some cocktail sauce – don’t forget the cocktail sauce! – and when you get home and put it on a platter, everybody is going to be really happy!” It’s Marty’s favorite way to serve Heinen’s Own Shrimp and may well become yours, too.
And about that cocktail sauce, Marty points out that Heinen’s carries four distinctive varieties right in the Seafood Department: St. Elmo Steak House’s Very Spicy Shrimp Cocktail Sauce; locally made Al’s Gourmet Shrimp Sauce; Kelchner’s Cocktail Sauce with a punchy horseradish finish; and Dick’s Homemade Seafood Sauce.
“It’s all about quality,” Marty concludes. “Our customers trust us to offer the very best products available. And when it comes to shrimp, this is the very best.”