Seafarers flexing its muscles one year into move to larger facility

Published on
May 23, 2018

One year out from moving into its new 56,000-square-foot facility in Medley, Florida, U.S.A., seafood importer Seafarers is settling into its larger footprint.

In need of more space and equipment upgrades, Seafarers embarked on building its new facility from the ground up in 2015. The USD 15.5 million (EUR 13.2 million) expansion has given Seafarers 50,000 square feet of refrigerated and frozen storage capacity, with a capacity to hold about 20 million pounds of product.

“It was a big but necessary move for us,” Seafarers Vice President of Sales David Casas told SeafoodSource. “The old facility was very small – only 16,000 square feet – so we weren’t able to have our entire frozen inventory under our own roof. We were outsourcing to local food storage facilities in Miami. Now we can hold all our inventory, and not only are the savings significant from a storage cost perspective, but it has given us the capacity to start expanding our product line into new species.”

Seafarers now sells more than 30 species of seafood, including tuna, mahi, grouper, red snapper, kingfish, and swordfish. Its Saltwater USA division, begun in 2014, focuses on salmon imported from Chile, Norway, Canada, and Scotland.

The company’s physical expansion has also enabled it to widen its sales footprint. Seafarers now sells “pretty much all over the U.S., as well as Eastern Canada, the Caribbean, and Colombia." Its focus is on broadline distributors, wholesalers, and specialty foodservice distributors, but it also has some retail chains it sells to directly. Casas said the company has targeted that last category as its biggest opportunity for growth.

“Where we see most of our growth is on the retail side of the market,” he said. “Before, we didn’t want to risk or neglect our strong core wholesale and foodservice customers, which are the foundation of the company. We now have the resources, facility, and infrastructure to enter the retail market.”

Sensing increasing demand for shellfish, Seafarers has begun importing fresh crabmeat out of Venezuela, pasteurized blue swimming crab from Indonesia and pasteurized red swimming crab from China. 

“Before we add any specific product into our line, we do a lot of market research. We analyze the market to assess where opportunities are and where there’s certain deficiencies as far as the availability of product supply,” Casas said. “We noticed there was a hole in the market that hasn’t been filled for crabmeat.”

Casas said Seafarers is looking to become a category leader in crabmeat, and that it fills out a demand from the firm’s existing customers for a one-stop shopping experience.

“We expect to be a big player in the crabmeat category,and given our portfolio of products, it was important to add in a major category so that our customers can get all their major seafood needs filled by us,” he said. “We’re known for being very strong on finfish, which is what we started in, but they can now buy crab, tuna, mahi, and salmon from us as well.” 

Seafarers has also expanded its salmon offerings, as it now does more added value, including pre-marinated portions, specialty cuts, and poke cubes. Casas said Saltwater USA is considered to be especially strong in its Chilean sourcing. Having Todd Gallardo – who has been in the salmon industry for 15 years – now serving as president of Saltwater USA, is another of the company’s strengths, Casas said. 

Adding to its expertise in salmon is its recent purchase of a processing plant in Puerto Montt, Chile. The company already operates plants in Mexico and Suriname.

Willy Rosell Sr., who has owned Seafarers since 1999, said the company built its business up steadily in the past through its good reputation, and that in order to maintain that reputation, the facility was a necessary expense.

“Our business is a matter of being honest. We pay our suppliers within 48 hours. That gives us credibility, because there’s nothing more important to our suppliers than cash flow – we deal with fishermen; they need their money,” Rosell Sr. said. “So we have shown our customers that we have roots and lasting power in the industry. But building the new facility represents an important new chapter for the business.”

Rosell Sr. said since opening the new building, the company’s service has improved, and said it now has the capability to hold at least 60 days' worth of frozen inventory at its facility for its program business.

“That money we spent, USD 15.5 million, that’s a commitment to the industry. We don’t do public warehousing anymore, we do our own, which means we have full control over our products at all times,” Rosell Sr. said. “How we treat the goods is different – we treat our fish like our babies. “Our facility can be maintained at temperatures of negative 25 degrees [Farenheit], and we don’t hesitate to spend the money on electricity because we want to keep up the quality of our products. Our brand has that reputation and has had it for many years.”

Despite the new technology, the new building nevertheless is allowing Seafarers to cut its costs – a benefit it then passes on to its customers.

“We’re very aggressive on prices, partly because we base our business on large volumes,” Rosell Sr. said. “Now that we have our own facility that can hold all our products, our expenses have dropped considerably and we just put it back into our selling price.”

That, in turn, has allowed the company to flourish, Rosell Sr. said. So much so, in fact, that Seafarers to keep its old warehouse, banking on future expansion.

“We were initially planning on selling it, but now we’re going to refurbish and do some upgrades to the equipment. Our two buildings are just a few miles apart, and we’re confident that with our growth, we’ll eventually need it for storage also. We’re growing a lot,” he said. “We’re very pleased with what’s going on.”

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