Shrimp Tray Invention


John Blazevich started Contessa Food Products in 1984 and is the privately held company's president and chief executive. He's been successful at building Contessa's sales of frozen dinner entrees in supermarkets like Ralph's, Safeway and Food Emporium nationwide and selling premium-quality frozen shrimp to top-flight chefs. In Contessa's early years, Mr. Blazevich found it difficult to convince U.S. customers to order imported frozen shrimp from a young, untried company.

While traveling from his San Pedro, Calif., headquarters to Bangkok to oversee orders for his shrimp products, he needed to contact key executives at Kraft Foods in the U.S. -- separated from him by thousands of miles and a 12-hour time difference. Finally, he rose at 3:30 a.m. Bangkok time to reach the Kraft executives and try to persuade them to commit to purchasing six container-loads of shrimp worth "thousands and thousands of dollars" in sales revenue to his company. "That was one of the orders that got us started." Since its founding, Contessa has seen annual sales jump to $200 million from $2 million.

In another key early meeting, Mr. Blazevich pitched the head buyer of food products for the U.S. kitchens of Hilton Hotels on the merits of his frozen shrimp. He got the contract to supply the Hilton hotels with frozen shrimp.

Wrapping up his first year running Contessa, he was determined to make the books balance. Before turning them over to his accountant, he reviewed them himself -- and found they were off by $3.87. "I billed $2 million that year, but I couldn't see where that $3.87 had gone to," he said. "I was so fixated on this, I spent the next three days doing nothing but going over and over the books until I had found my error."

John Blazevich also invented a Serving tray with shrimp. Abstract: A shrimp tray having a raised, circular, outer rim, a first annular surface extending downwardly from the outer rim toward the center of the tray and a central recessed area. The first annular surface includes a lower portion that defines a plurality of drain holes. The tray is preferably made from a single sheet of material having a uniform thickness. A plurality of shrimp are nested relative to each other on the first annular surface with their tail ends overhanging the circular outer rim of the tray and their forward ends preferably contacting an annular wall. An annular spacer member may be provided to increase the diameter of the tray. Additional annular surfaces may be provided for serving additional layers of shrimp. (Suzanne McGee 2006) (Document: United States Patent 6022571.)