Brief description of business: Franchisor of sushi restaurants within grocery stores, college campuses, airports and corporate offices.
Your responsibilities: I lead finance, accounting, supply chain and M&A.
Year started at company: 2018
Number of employees: More than 80 local; more than 250 total
Unique challenge of the past year:
Like everyone, the pandemic has been a challenge for our business; however, we were able to come together as a team to drive cost savings as well as generate creative promotional programs to improve sales results. While our business is not fully back to pre-pandemic sales in all channels, we are pleased with where we are today.
Advice to an aspiring CFO:
Take time to understand the underlying drivers of financial performance at your company so you can explain what the company needs to do to improve performance. A good finance leader does not just report news (i.e. make sure the numbers are correct and accurate); they impact future performance by helping educate others about changes they can make to help improve results and drive better returns.
Who or what made you successful?
I think having a blend of finance, strategy and business experience in my past roles has helped set me up for success. I tried to look for opportunities to take on a new challenge or move into a new area of the business because it helped me gain new experiences that increased my knowledge base or allowed me to develop a new skillset. This also enables me to look at key decisions from both the business side and the finance side so I can provide a balanced opinion to our team.
Charlotte, North Carolina-based Hissho Sushi continues to see strong demand for its poke bowls sold in grocery perimeter departments around the country, says Corey Wilde, the company’s vice president of business development.
A big reason? Poke bowls are affordable and trendy at the same time.
“Poke bowls prove to shoppers that they don’t have to go to an expensive restaurant to get the hottest culinary trends,” Wilde says. “That’s something that our retail partners are excited about — being able to grow their business by offering access to fresh, innovative meal options that are convenient for the shopper’s busy, on-the-go lifestyle.”
Corey Wilde, VP Business Development | Hissho Sushi
Products like Hissho poke bowls for grocery retail are tapping into the fact that supermarket prepared foods are the fastest growing sector of the foodservice industry, with sales exceeding $12.7 billion, according to Washington, D.C.-based FMI – The Food Industry Association.
“We want to maximize that growth by providing premium, more wholesome and customizable options that our customers are looking for,” Wilde says — and poke bowls fit the bill perfectly.
Four years of explosive growth — and still going
According to September 2019 Datassential research, poke is the top trending seafood dish in the U.S., with 17% growth over the last year and 187% growth over the last four years.
Megan Rider, domestic marketing director for the Juneau-based Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, doesn’t think that trend will change anytime soon.
“We expect to see demand spike even higher this year, with the 2020 Summer Olympics set for Tokyo and Japanese influence expected to permeate further into the American culinary landscape,” she says.
Megan Rider, Domestic Marketing Director | Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
First, as Rider points out, poke restaurants exploded across the U.S. Now, as so often happens, the trend is migrating to other channels — namely, grocery perimeter departments.
“In addition to gourmet and natural supermarkets leading the way with self-serve poke bars, the trend is moving out of the seafood department and into the mainstream deli, with retailers increasingly offering prepared poke among other fresh-prepared items,” she says.
Hissho poke bowls sold at grocery retail are hand-crafted daily by local chefs with high-quality, responsibly-sourced ingredients, Wilde says. Poke, he adds, has everything the company’s customers already love about their sushi, but now they’re thinking “outside the roll” and having it crafted into a satisfying and convenient bowl they can take on the go.
Choices galore (or just make our own)
Hissho currently offers five different poke bowls, which vary depending on the location. The company’s signature bowls include Classic Hawaiian Poke, Mango Salmon Poke and Blake Dragon Poke. Grocery shoppers can order a signature bowl or build their own right there in the deli section.
In 2019, Hissho introduced two new bowls: Aloha Poke and Salmon Lover Poke.
Aloha pairs tuna, fresh ginger, edamame, blueberries, red onion and red radish on a bed of sushi rice and lettuce. The unique combination delivers “fresh, powerful flavors,” Wilde says.
Salmon Lover Poke Bowl boasts not only great flavor but eye-popping color, he adds. Hissho paired fresh citrus with cherry tomatoes and mangoes. Toppings like seaweed salad, sliced almonds and fried onions complete the savory, sweet bowl.
As far as trends in poke go, Hissho is seeing more and more consumers filling their bowls with bold fruits, spices, umami sauces and crunchy textures, Wilde says.
The demand among shoppers for wild and sustainably caught seafood is more prominent than ever across the industry, Rider says.
“Especially when it comes to preparations like poke, where quality is top-of-mind, specifying Alaska as the source helps communicate the message of quality and sustainability,” she adds.
Fifty-eight percent of seafood shoppers are more likely to purchase seafood when paired with the Alaska Seafood logo, Rider says, citing Technomic research from 2018.
Poke gone wild
Gen Z shoppers in particular, a key audience for poke, are more attuned to knowing where their food comes from, making wild, sustainable seafood from Alaska the top choice for younger generations of poke shoppers.
There’s also, she adds, a prime opportunity for the evolution of poke bowls, featuring seafood along with grains and produce, from restaurants into the service deli.
“As a majority of Americans intend to eat less meat in the year ahead, seafood and plant-based staples like grains can work together to fill nutrient gaps and satisfy shoppers,” she says.
Asian flavors have also been trending over the past couple of years, with additional culinary influence in the U.S. expected this year as a result of the Summer 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Rider says.
“With the combined upward trajectory of poke bowls and the growing trend toward Asian flavors, our Tropical Poke Bowl, made with soy sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar, remains one of the more popular recipes on our site,” she says. “Retailers interested in poke can access this recipe and others on the Alaska Seafood website, for sharing digitally or for re-creation as an in-store offering.”
Also on its site, ASMI has a flavor and ingredient guide retailers can use and/or share to create customized poke bowls starting with wild Alaska salmon or wild Alaska surimi.
Shoppers often value freshness when it comes to seafood, not realizing that most of the seafood in supermarkets and restaurants has been frozen at some point, which is important for ensuring quality and food safety, Rider says.
Alaska’s frozen-fresh practices, she says, in which fishermen often freeze their wild catch directly on the boat, locks in freshness and maintains quality.
“For home poke preparation from frozen, consumers can simply defrost fish in a covered, perforated pan overnight in the fridge before marinating for roughly 30 minutes before serving.”
The ever-growing Charlotte region is home to an increasing number of businesses, large and small, that span a variety of industries. Each is led by a chief executive who navigates challenges — both specific to their company’s particular sector and more general issues that apply across the board — and shares successes with their teams.
The Charlotte Business Journal‘s Most Admired CEO Awards program, now in its third year, turns a spotlight on these local leaders.
This signature awards program honors Charlotte-area chief executives or those with an equivalent title, such as managing principal or executive director, who demonstrate admirable leadership qualities. Nominations were open to the public and came from members of the business community, within the honorees’ organizations and externally.
The CBJ editorial team has selected 35 honorees across 18 categories.
Each has shown a strong record of innovation in their field, outstanding financial performance, a commitment to quality, a strong vision, a commitment to diversity in the workplace and contributions to the metro community. In an upcoming special report, CBJ will profile all of the honorees; see coverage of past years’ programs here.
In addition, a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient will be named in the weeks to come.
Deli entrées have evolved and become higher end to better compete with restaurant offerings
Prepared foods have definitely been taking over deli departments, not only creating meal destinations that are giving today’s restaurants a run for their money, but also raising basket rings for retailers.
New York City-based market research firm Nielsen reports that in the 52 weeks ending Oct. 26, 2019, prepared food dollar sales totaled close to $30 billion, a 3.8 percent increase from the same period a year prior.
“In general, we are seeing that consumers expect to have it all, including products that offer indulgence with healthful characteristics that feed the desires of today’s consumers at home,” says Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions, based in Chicago. “Healthful, delicious, accessible and sustainable menu offerings are driving foodservice and of course, that would also apply to the supermarket deli, as well.”
What we’ve been seeing in the last four to five years is an evolution into prepared foods destinations.
“This can be a separate segment in the store in some cases, but it depends on the store format,” says Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator for the Madison, WI-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA). “Stores are taking on different types of programs, such as in-store dining.”
What’s driving this is changing consumer eating patterns. More people want convenience and prepared food options, and the perfect time for picking up a meal is during a grocery shopping trip. Rather than the quintessential sandwiches or pizza, shoppers are seeking healthier fare, including plant-based entrées, foods sourced locally and unique, upscale fare typically found in restaurants.
“Restaurant trends are transcending to supermarket delis,” says Richard. “Retailers are in a good position to compete with restaurants.” A robust menu with new ideas is not a necessity, but a focus on flavor and doing a few things well are key. “Those embarking on a successful prepared foods program need to compete with restaurants of all types,” he says.
“Customization and personalization are very important to take prepared food programs to a new level.” While one customer may want to explore different options, another’s goal may be to get in and out quickly. Providing both experiences can expand a program’s demographic to both types of consumers.
“From our experience, supermarket delis are evolving into a destination for shoppers, where they can find innovative entrées with authentic flavors that are fresh, healthy and satisfying,” says Breana Jones, director, marketing and sales at Hissho Sushi, based in Charlotte, NC. “They want more convenience, flexibility and variety in prepared meals.”
Entrée items are becoming more sophisticated in the deli in terms of product, packaging and merchandising. “The products have moved from standard and traditional recipes to more premium ones with specialty ingredients and flavors that cater to today’s more demanding palates,” says John McCarthy, senior brand marketing manager, Reser’s Fine Foods, Beaverton, OR. “There is also a greater variety of entrées available in both bulk and pre-pack. New meal kit packages are now offered that allow consumers to customize their meals.”
Delis today are creating meal solution sections where entrées are sold next to complementary items, such as sides and salads, to make it easy for consumers to quickly pick up dinner on busy weeknights. Whereas in the past, food was eaten for fuel, today it’s more about the experience.
“This is an important factor to keep in mind from a retail standpoint, to give consumers an experience,” says Larry Montuori, vice president of sales, Nuovo Pasta Enterprises, Stratford, CT.
In the last 12 to 24 months, there has been an influx of take-and-bake and quick-serve entrée foods and meals within the supermarket deli.
“Most stores offer pre-made entrée options, but some do offer self service or make-your-own options,” says Derek Skogen, senior product manager, Placon, Fitchburg, WI. “Today’s consumer is looking for a convenience type meal solution that does not require a lot of time and is easy to prepare.”
Most stores have a dedicated space to an entrée or meal kit section that includes items prepared in the store deli area. “Rather than having a supermarket deli customer put fried chicken, a vegetable and starch in a separate self-serve bag or container, they can now easily grab an entrée that includes all items, and it is much more appealing than a frozen dinner and, in most cases, has been freshly prepared the same day,” says Skogen.
Trends & New Products
Customers are seeking meal solutions that are quick and convenient. As a result, Hissho Sushi created new, innovative rolls that not only deliver on taste, but also fulfill the health standard more shoppers are searching to find.
This year, the company unveiled its Spicy Pepper Roll and Veggie TNT Rolls made with a plant-based protein to serve as the “tuna” – a roasted bell pepper.
The company also has launched three light salads to complement its sushi rolls and complete families’ meals. The new Zesty Cucumber Salad, Ginger Edamame Salad and Banzai Crab Salad can serve as a side for any lunch or dinner roll.
In addition, its offerings now include six poke bowls and stuffed dumplings for a Dim Sum menu. A number of new deli entrées have reduced the amount of artificial ingredients and now offer cleaner ingredient lists.
“We are also seeing different portion sizes in pre-pack entrées to cater to the different consumer household sizes,” says McCarthy at Reser’s.
Reser’s recently launched three entrées in the deli—Baked Ziti Bolognese, Baked Chicken Broccoli Cheddar, and Baked 5 Cheese Macaroni—that are fully baked for a homemade taste and appearance without any prep. These entrées also come in a tray that is safe to heat in the microwave or oven so they can go directly from fridge to oven for added convenience.
Nuovo Pasta is relaunching its pesto line and debuting traditional sauces like marinaras, alfredos and putenascas.
“There has been an evolution with prepared food companies launching more gourmet side dishes that retailers can put together in commissaries,” says Carl H. Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development, Don’s Prepared Foods, Schwenksville, PA.
The company has launched five globally-inspired gourmet sides.
“There are trends with Middle Eastern, Asian and Latin American flavors, but comfort foods remain big in the U.S.,” says Cappelli. “The other big trend is prepared or heat-and-eat foods with little to no prep needed.
Consumers also are seeking clean products with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.” There’s been an evolution from plated meals to chef-inspired meal kits. Now retailers are taking the cue and chains like Kroger, Publix and Whole Foods are jumping on that bandwagon.
Over the past 12 to 24 months, Placon has launched a variety of products within its HomeFresh Entrée product line. This provides a variety of options, ranging from one- to three-compartment bases that can hold 8 up to 40 ounces of hot or cold foods. Keep in mind that most consumers don’t know what they are having for dinner tonight let alone in the next few days.
“So it is critical to properly merchandise entrées next to sides, salads and complementary dishes to create a meal solution center,” says Reser’s McCarthy. “It is optimal to provide simple meal ideas using shelf signage or tear sheets at the shelf that pair an entrée with a side and a salad, etc. for a complete meal and offer special meal deal bundle pricing to make it as simple as possible for consumers.”
Marketing for Moving
There are a couple approaches, including providing an all-in-one solution and cross merchandising with other foods.
“On the one hand, there’s a basic level with rotisserie chicken, sides, a roll and beverages,” says Eric LeBlanc, director of marketing, Tyson Foods, Springdale, AR. “Cross merchandising is fresher, yet you can only do this with so many meal solutions at a time.”
Tyson recently worked with a retailer on co-merchandising, and by messaging outside the store, sales increased between 15 and 20 percent.
Retailers also can rotate a meal special each night or provide the components for a meal, such as chicken tenders, sub rolls, Mozzarella cheese and spaghetti sauce for a chicken Parmesan sandwich.
“[The mindset is] how do you take something that’s not exciting on its own and make it into something that feels like another meal or dish,” says LeBlanc. “For example, combining buffalo wings, Hawaiian rolls and ranch dressing for a buffalo chicken slider. All you need is three ingredients, and it feels like a completely different meal.”
To ensure that messaging thrives, Hissho turns to its trained chefs to connect directly with shoppers inside the deli area and capture audiences through education of its menu, tastings and samples.
“Retailers need to make it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for and provide vegan/vegetarian options, entrées for meat eaters, and items to accompany entrées like French bread and grilled chicken, salad,” says Cappelli at Don’s. “It should be easy for them to find meal solutions to meet everyone’s needs.”
Utilizing social media brings tremendous value with deli prepared food marketing programs and is something all stores should be engaging in.
“It’s up to the individual chains to put the focus and concentrated effort on prepared foods departments,” says Richard at IDDBA. “We’re seeing new builds within supermarket chains where there is a much greater focus on this segment than in the past, and we predict that will continue to grow.”
As we roll into a new year, many of us look towards healthier and better-for-us foods to help us reach new goals. Thankfully, you don’t have to look very far for healthier options with Hissho.
Sushi is packed with all kinds of goodness like fresh, healthy ingredients and boasts benefits like omega-3s, high protein and low saturated fat. Hissho uses all natural ginger, wasabi, rice, vinegar and nori to give you a quality sushi experience.
For those wanting to grab a quick and healthy lunch, dinner or snack, we have four feature rolls to try. The California Roll got its start in the 1960’s and spread across the U.S. in the late 20th century. This fusion roll provides a great start for the sushi beginner, featuring fresh cucumber, avocado and surimi – or imitation crab. No raw fish involved!
Another beginner’s – and vegetarian’s – favorite is the Veggie Roll, featuring fresh carrot, cucumber and avocado. Fresh veggies in this roll serve up vitamins A, C and E, while the seaweed wrap provides minerals like calcium, iodine and zinc.
The Hissho Healthy Roll can be another vegetarian-friendly choice – a simple maki roll featuring fresh carrot, cucumber or avocado; or make it non-veg with imitation crab. Cucumbers featured in this roll are low-cal and packed with vitamins A and C, fiber and silica – a compound shown to foster healthy skin.
For the dedicated sushi lover, another healthy option is the Nippon Favorite – a simple maki roll that features tuna, salmon, shrimp, eel or yellowtail. More than half the calories in this simple maki roll comes from protein, making it a great light meal or protein-powered snack.
We offer brown rice options in most of our locations as well – brown rice is a wholesome whole grain that is high in fiber, rich in antioxidants and contains naturally-occurring oils. You can also ask your local Hissho chef to customize your roll to feature more protein or fresh veggies to suite your quest for healthy living.
Whatever your goals may be for the new year, Hissho’s got the healthy options to help you make it happen!
Hissho Sushi recently opened World Bank in Washington, DC to raves from customers young and old. The lines were really long, but our Chefs were ready! During the first 2 days alone, orders for 45 platters came in! This just indicates how popular the Hissho items were, and how beautiful the presentations were. “Hats off” to our Opening Team and congratulations on a great job done by all.
With the holidays looming and parties scheduled for almost every day, we hope you’ll consider a few of Hissho’s party platters for your table as well. What a great way to impress and also please the palates of your guests.
Shown here is a platter made for the World Bank Opening! You can also customize your own platters by arranging with your Chef ahead of time! Enjoy these coming weeks with all the excitement of what the holidays bring……..
Thanksgiving at Hissho
As the summer swept by like a kite on steroids, we find ourselves in the midst of autumn with Christmas lights up outside already, the tree in place in our reception area, and bits of ornamentation around the office. But before we dive headlong into Christmas, we paused just long enough to give Thanksgiving its due.
Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year, mainly because it’s not fraught with pure commercialism. It’s a time for reflection, and giving thought to what we have and appreciate the gifts given by God each and every day. Thinking back on how Thanksgiving began, with the Pilgrims and Native American Indians coming together and sharing what they had, to create a meal to give thanks for all that had happened leading up to that moment.
It’s the same today, just in a different environment and over 500 years later. That we can share, love, and laugh together are the things that make life meaningful. We at Hissho are so grateful for our teams around the country who make us proud, our staff who share the same mission, and a CEO who leads by example. We are truly blessed, and stopping to acknowledge this is paramount to our continuing success.
Each year we celebrate Thanksgiving by sharing a delicious meal together. Some years we prepare everything ourselves, some years we have it catered, and for the past two, our generous CEO has treated us all. This is so appreciated in that all we had to do was show up, eat up, and clean up. Seems so simple until we remember who made it happen. In pausing to give thanks to the ones who prepared it, the one who paid for it, and the teams who cleaned up, our gratefulness became boundless.
Thanksgiving is now in the rear view mirror, but should always be in the periphery. We at Hissho hope yours was wonderful, and we’re sure it was if you had a platter of our delicious sushi to share. If not, be sure to order your platters for the Christmas holidays and New Year’s.
CHARLOTTE, NC – For the 1st time, Hissho Sushi has been named a winner in the Charlotte Business Journal’s 2016 FAST 50. Congratulations to Philip Maung and the Hissho team.
The Charlotte Business Journal has just recognized the 2016 fastest-growing private companies in our region. This awards program recognizes 50 local companies with outstanding growth, entrepreneurial excellence and leadership.
During the awards dinner posted for Thursday, December 8, 2016 from 5:30pm –8:30pm at the Hilton Charlotte Center City, 222 East Third Street Charlotte NC, 28202, CBJ will reveal the 2016 honoree company rankings based on their percentage of annual growth over a three-year period. The top-ranked companies will also be profiled in a CBJ special report on December 9.
CHARLOTTE, N.C.– Hissho Sushi has once again been recognized as part of the 2016 Grant Thornton North Carolina 100® (NC100), which ranks the state’s largest private companies by revenue. The complete list was released in the October issue of Business North Carolina and can be viewed at GrantThornton.com/NC100.
“We are honored to be included on this year’s Grant Thornton North Carolina 100® list,” said Philip Maung, CEO. “This award reaffirms our prominence in the marketplace and our commitment to the community. We are proud to be recognized as one of the largest privately-held businesses in North Carolina.”
Hissho Sushi, headquartered in Charlotte NC, is a thriving sushi and Pan-Asian hot bar franchise which now has over 900 locations in 40 states. Philip Maung, the CEO, came to the United States from Myanmar in 1989 with only $13 in his pocket, and started his sushi business in 1998.
Since 1984, the NC100 has ranked the state’s largest private companies by revenue in the mot recent fiscal year, based on data provided by the participants.
To view the complete 2016 list, visit GrantThorton.com/NC100
For more information on Hissho, visit www.hisshosushi.com, or contact Andrea Lee at 704-926-3989 / and/ firstname.lastname@example.org About Grant Thornton North Carolina 100®
Since 1984, the Grant Thornton North Carolina 100® has ranked the state’s largest private companies by revenue in the most recent fiscal year, based on data provided by the participants. The NC100 is a voluntary list restricted to companies based in North Carolina that do not have publicly traded stock. Companies owned by private equity are permitted. Nonprofits, financial-services companies, health care providers such as hospitals and subsidiaries of corporations are excluded. For more details, visit GrantThornton.com/NC100. About Grant Thornton LLP
Founded in Chicago in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP (Grant Thornton) is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms. In the United States, Grant Thornton has revenues of $1.65 billion and operates 60 offices with 575 partners and more than 8,000 employees. Grant Thornton works with a broad range of dynamic publicly and privately held companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and civic and religious organizations.
“Grant Thornton” refers to Grant Thornton LLP, the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). GTIL and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. Please see grantthornton.com for further details.
2016 N.C. Mid-Market Fast 40 Winners Announced
By Ben Kinney Publisher of Business NC Magazine
Posted September 21, 2016
Hissho was among forty North Carolina companies honored on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, at Pinehurst Resort for being named to the 2016 Mid-Market Fast 40 list. Created by accounting firm Cherry Bekaert LLP and Business North Carolina magazine, the list ranks mid-size companies on revenue and employment growth. Capturing the 11th space, Hissho was honored to be a recipient for the 3rd consecutive year.
Companies who made the list were recognized at the luncheon, which included an awards presentation and a video of a round table discussion with representatives from the top five companies on the list. The ranking, coverage of the round table, and company profiles will be published in a supplement to the November issue of Business North Carolina magazine.
For more than 69 years, Cherry Bekaert LLP has been helping clients take their businesses as far as they want to go. As one of the largest national public accounting firms headquartered in Richmond, Va., Cherry Bekaert’s resource network stretches across the Southeast: Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. It also extends nationally and internationally through an alliance with Baker Tilly International, an association of independent accounting services and consulting firms. For more information, visit www.cbh.com or contact August P. Keller III, chief marketing and sales officer at 800-849-8281. Business North Carolina magazine has explored what’s happening in one very special place — North Carolina — for more than 35 years, producing quality, in-depth journalism that digs into the stories behind the news. In addition to the monthly magazine, BNC publishes its annual North Carolina Economic Development Guide and partners on projects with various statewide organizations. For more information, visit BusinessNC.com or contact Ben Kinney, publisher, at 704-927-6273.