Top 25 list a silver lining

By

James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
May 3, 2009

Countless news stories and advertisements focus on the economy, the recession or the subtler but no-less annoying reference to "times like these." Media coverage of the global economic downturn is typically gloomy, but not all forecasts see only gray skies ahead.

This month, SeaFood Business publishes its annual list of Top 25 North American seafood suppliers. As you might expect, the distressed economic climate sets the tone for the list, which appears in the Top Story, Dollar Discipline. Indeed, there is reason for concern for any business, but this year's compilation of sales figures by the continent's biggest seafood suppliers shows a silver lining among the gathering clouds.

The Top 25 ranked seafood suppliers generated USD 11.45 billion (EUR 8.66 billion) in sales last year, a slight decrease from the USD 11.6 billion (EUR 8.77 billion) posted in 2007. The names atop the list shuffled a bit, and in the end, tuna supplier Tri Marine International of Bellevue, Wash., USA, snatched the No. 1 spot with USD 1.15 billion (EUR 870 million) in sales.

In fact, the "big three" tuna canners that source from Tri-Marine all posted considerable sales gains in 2008, led by Bumble Bee Foods of San Diego (No. 3) at USD 900 million (EUR 681 million), a USD 100 million year-over-year increase. Combined with Thai Union International of San Diego (Chicken of the Sea, No. 4) and StarKist of Pittsburgh (No. 8), the leading tuna canners posted a USD 146 million (EUR 110.5 million) sales gain last year.

Tuna prices remained high throughout 2008, sources say. Volumes did not increase substantially. Instead, suppliers were able to pass on the higher costs to their customers. Prevailing wisdom would lead you believe that, because fewer people are dining out to cut expenses, shelf-stable items like canned tuna stand to benefit. But whether the foodservice industry's loss is truly retailers' gain remains to be seen (SFB's June Top Story will tackle that issue).

For this year's list, keep in mind that three of North America's largest suppliers, whose combined sales would have added an estimated USD 3 billion (EUR 2.27 billion) to the pot, did not participate. And because the list is based on dollar sales - and seafood prices pretty much across the board were up in 2008 - a higher total wouldn't necessarily translate into more seafood being sold.

Change among the ranked companies is inevitable, but for the most part the 2008 list has a lot of familiar players, many of them performing respectably in a year marked by economic and financial turmoil. Yes, the seafood industry's heart is still beating.

For the full list of the Top 25 suppliers, check out the May issue of SeaFood Business, which should arrive in your mailbox soon.

Thank you,
James Wright
Associate Editor
SeaFood Business

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