Seattle Fish, having just celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018, is looking to the future of both the company and the industry as a whole as it begins planning out the next decade.
Seattle Fish CEO Derek Figueroa told SeafoodSource that the company is strategizing how it plans to spend the next decade as a seafood company. Key to that, he said, is capitalizing on consumer trends throughout the food industry.
“I took over as CEO in October of 2019, so it does become a really important opportunity to use the start of the new decade, the start of the new year, to envision where we go as a company, as a market, as a protein, as a responsible choice for people who need to eat healthy,” Figueroa said. “For us to take advantage of where we’re at for seafood, we’re looking at expanded a lot of our value added capabilities.”
The idea, he said, is to “meet consumers where we need to” when it comes to getting seafood into shopping baskets.
“You could have a beautiful whole fish, or a beautiful fish fillet, but it doesn’t necessarily resonate with some consumers. We need to add convenience to seafood to get all the benefits, without maybe the risk, or the fear,” he said.
Consumer fear of cooking seafood, he said, remains an obstacle to their willingness to purchase it, and getting over that will be key to expanding sales in the industry. But simply telling people about the ease of cooking seafood isn’t enough.
“I think telling people that doesn’t necessarily resonate, I think showing people helps,” he said. “Whether it’s making burgers, which we do for some of our customers, or putting things on planks, getting people to not just say ‘cook it, it’s not a problem,’ but help them envision with what that looks like.”
Getting people to be able to envision what the seafood will look like and giving them easy options for cooking it will go a long way toward expanding the amount sold, he added.
The company is also looking into new consumer goods that extend the company’s reach in the store.
“We’re looking at some CPG items along the same vein, how can we extend our brand or capabilities that we have in seafood to connect with consumers and drive seafood consumption and seafood adoption,” he said.
Telling the story of seafood, Figueroa said, is another thing that Seattle Fish, and the industry as a whole, can highlight to increase sales.
“That’s one of the things, from an industry, that we can do a lot better. One is we can engage a lot more in positive storytelling,” he said. “We’re really amplifying the positive aspects of seafood, from carbon footprint, sustainability, water usage, health, environmental impact, variety, ease of cooking, and preparation, that’s important for us.”
Supply chain transparency, as well, is a key part of telling the story.
“Oysters is a good example of this, because they have a sort of provenance built right into the name,” Figueroa.
Another part of the company’s strategy, Figueroa added, is making new partners in the industry.
“We’re centrally located [geographically], so as a third pillar we’re looking to expand our partnerships with others that have distribution,” he said. The proximity of the Denver International Airport, and the availability of direct flights to a number of destinations, is a key asset to those potential partnerships.
“We look to aggregate some of that and partner with others who might have some distribution experience, where we can provide that core capability around seafood, and be distribution agnostic,” Figueroa said. “That’s going to be key for us.”
Acquisitions, too, play into that goal.
“We’re looking at acquisitions that are core in our focus,” he said. “It could be some direct consumer, it could be partnering with someone who has capabilities around third-party distribution. Our plant is sized very well, and we’ve been able to drive a lot of efficiencies, and I think we want to grow the seafood we process and distribute without necessarily taking on huge investments into other distribution.”
Seattle Fish was itself the subject of an acquisition relatively recently when Fortune International purchased the Kansas City, Missouri location.
“That was a wholly-owned subsidiary of ours, it was really grown as a separate business,” he said. “That was, from a Fortune standpoint, they’re coming in and making a turn-key acquisition. It’s a good chance for them to aggregate business … It makes sense for them, especially given their aggressive acquisition strategy.”
The sale was an opportunity, he added, for Seattle Fish to take the proceeds and invest in the core area of Denver.
Regardless of how partnerships and acquisitions end up shaking out, Figueroa said he’s confident the industry will continue to grow.
“We believe that it will continue to grow, that there will be a lot of growth in seafood,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Seattle Fish Company