Innovation #6: Handy’s Breaded Soft Crabs – A Convenient Delicacy

value-added crab

Handy Seafood, the oldest seafood processing company in the United States, is the first to reach 125 years of age.  Handy is celebrating this milestone achievement by highlighting products introduced through the years.  Handy’s June innovation focuses on breaded soft crabs.

For consumers living close to the Chesapeake Bay, Handy’s fresh soft crabs have been a renowned specialty since 1917.  To extend availability to new markets worldwide and to make its delicacy easier to prepare, Handy introduced frozen, breaded soft crabs.  The benefits of a ready-to-cook seafood delicacy that can be quickly prepared-to-order continue to make breaded soft crabs more and more popular.

The process begins with one of the world’s most elegant seafood products.  Soft crabs are described as having a sweet delicate taste like no other crab.  Each section of the soft crab – legs, claws, and body – has its own flavor and crunch that demands to be savored separately but combines to produce a most memorable eating experience.

Like most world delicacies, the supply of soft crabs is limited.  They are available during a short spring and summer season.  Only a few Chesapeake Bay watermen know how to find the hard shell crabs that are showing signs of shedding their shells, a process that occurs in areas where salt and fresh water converge.  Handy’s location in Crisfield, Maryland, is centered in the ideal habitat for swimming crabs.  This location makes buying crabs fresh off the boat convenient.

The popularity of breaded soft crabs began 34 years ago when Pasquale, a long time customer, visited Handy and presented a challenge. “I distribute to restaurants searching for seafood that offers low labor costs, the convenience of ready-to-cook, and 100% usable.  Of course it has to be delicious.  Hand breaded with a ‘back of the house look’ would be a plus.  Soft crabs would make my restaurants famous.  Can Handy bread and freeze soft crabs for me?”

Handy’s culinary team listened and immediately began to test breadings that enhance the soft crab’s delicate taste. The team perfected a breading for Pasquale and continued on with new breaded recipes.  They developed a panko breading for crunch, a corn dusted version (a southern favorite), a tempura batter for Asian cuisine, and even a breading for home baking.

“Breaded soft crab applications are amazing and diverse” stated Dave Pearce, Handy’s sales leader. Large users such as casinos, 500-seat restaurants, and caterers continue to enjoy the year-round supply and predicable food costs of Handy’s breaded soft crabs. Users that sell sandwiches and salads with toppings enjoy the convenience of quickly cooking soft crabs to order.  Retailers are merchandising oven-ready in the deli and grab-&-go sections.  On-line retailers are now featuring breaded soft crabs.

Handy’s sales team found a receptive market for this innovation and its popularity grew and grew. It all started with Pasquale.  He spoke.  Handy listened.


Handy Seafood is a family-owned company with 125 years of quality seafood processing. Products include soft shell crabs, crab meat, crab cakes, seafood specialty items, oysters and artisanal fish.

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