Seattle Fish Company sold to Founders Food Group’s Armand Agra
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.-based Seattle Fish Company has been sold to Armand Agra, a subsidiary of the Founders Group of Food Companies.
The 15 November sale – terms of which were not released – places Seattle Fish Co. under the umbrella of a regional specialty meat and seafood distributor, which is itself owned by a family-owned company focused on food and beverage manufacturers and distributors. Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the Founders Group of Food Companies includes Armand Agra, Purewater Foods, Presteve Foods, and Ganache Gourmet.
Armand Agra has locations in Reno and Carson City, Nevada, and Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. and operates Sierra Meat and Seafood, Durham Ranches, McDonald Meat Co., and Flocchini Family Provisions.
In a 15 November announcement, the Founders Group of Food Companies said it “is committed to help grow the SFC business” post-acquisition. It said it will retain current Seattle Fish Company President and CEO Derek Figueroa, as well as chief financial officer Pete McClure and chief operating officer Hamish Walker, and all of the company’s current employees.
“Our goal is to become the most sought-after branded specialty protein experience in North America. Seattle Fish helps us move towards this goal by adding tremendous expertise in the seafood category and a strong presence in the Rocky Mountain region, serving both retail and foodservice,” Armand Agra Vice Chair Chris Flocchini said in a press release.
With the additional resources and network of the Founders Group, Seattle Fish Company will be able to offer more products, like high-quality sustainable meats, in the future, Figueroa said.
“The investment by Armand Agra preserves the rich legacy of Seattle Fish while providing the resources, collaboration, and scale to grow our brand,” Figueroa said. “For over 103 years, Seattle Fish Company has engaged with our partners to provide high-quality seafood throughout the [U.S.] Midwest. I look forward to working with Armand Agra and our employees to deliver on our Leadership Aspiration to 'Lead the Growth of Sustainable Seafood Consumption’. Our commitment will be to continue the legacy started by the Iacino family, led and fed by our entire team, into the future.”
Founded in 1918 by Mose Iacino, who received fresh fish packed in sawdust and ice transported via railcar from Seattle, the company was led by Iacino’s grandson, James Iacino, until 2019, when he stepped down as CEO to make a run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, which was ultimately unsuccessful. The Iacino family “have now decided to permanently focus on new ventures,” according to the press release.
The acquisition preserves the Seattle Fish legacy while immediately providing additional resources to allow for future growth plans, according to Armand Agra President and CFO Matt Ellis.
“I am delighted to see another great business with a long history and a record of serving customers with passion and excellence join us,” Ellis said.
Seattle Fish Company currently supplies more than 1,400 restaurants and retailers, primarily located in the U.S. Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions with fresh and frozen wild-caught and farm-raised seafood. The company is “dedicated to fostering sustainable fishing practices, including supporting local aquaculture farms, as well as fishery improvement projects around the world, ensuring that seafood as a healthful protein is available for all, for generations to come,” and is one of 10 members of the precompetitive Sea Pact collaboration, which seeks to drive sustainable practices throughout the U.S. seafood supply chain. Seattle Fish Co. was named to SeafoodSource’s Top 25: Sustainability and Conservation list in 2020.
The COVID-19 crisis initially had a significant economic impact on Seattle Fish Co., which lost roughly half its revenue after the pandemic initially hit the U.S. The company pivoted to a focus on the retail sector, partnering on a range of private-label prepared seafood options for grocery stores and boosting its retail customers’ e-commerce offerings, and partnering with more local producers.
“The change in our industry and resulting shifts in consumer behavior spurred by COVID have demonstrated that Seattle Fish can play a prominent role in how we provide essential, responsible nutrition to our communities,” Figueroa said in December 2020.
Figueroa was named the chairman of the National Fisheries Institute, the largest U.S. seafood trade group, in January, and said he was taking over during a “pivotal time in [the seafood] industry.”
“I’ve been in the seafood industry for 30 years. We have seen stress in terms of labor, wage, and costs. These are areas that are ripe for investment in technology such as forecasting, visibility across the supply chain, and traceability,” Figueroa said. “It is an opportunity to engage the customers and reduce costs.”
Figueroa told SeafoodSource Seattle Fish Co. customers won’t notice any immediate changes from the sale.
“Our first priority is to ensure business continuity and to continue to provide the same exceptional experience for our employees, customers, vendor, and community partners,” he said. “Starting in January 2022, we will look for opportunities to draw on the core capabilities and expertise of the respective groups within Armand Agra to determine the most beneficial way to provide increased value to our customers. Specific plans will be developed over the course of the next few months as we have meaningful conversations with our customers.”
The transaction is strategic for Seattle Fish Company, Figueroa said.
“We maintain family ownership and a buy-and-hold investment strategy – both allowing us to retain the culture and legacy that we have built over the last 103 years. In the longer term, the sale to Armand Agra provides access to high-quality protein from the source, increased financial and operating resources, greater scale, an integrated and broad offering for customers, and opportunity to grow the Seattle Fish brand,” Figueroa said. “For the immediate future, Seattle Fish will continue to operate as a trusted gourmet and seafood company within our established region. The exact specifics of our growth trajectory are yet to be determined. However, we are committed to growing the Seattle Fish Company brand – now with greater resources.”
The investment from the Founders Group of Food Companies, and the sharing of resources between the other closely-related food businesses within the Founders Group network, will help Seattle Fish Co. continue to make the transition to the post-pandemic economy, according to Founders Group Partner and Armand Agra Executive Chairman Richard Harris.
“We’ve been building Armand Agra together with Chris Flocchini and Flocchini Family Holdings since 2017, and we are delighted to see Seattle Fish Company as well as Derek Figueroa and his team join our group,” Harris said. “This investment is significant and increases the size and scale of Armand Agra by more than two times since our initial investment in Sierra Meat & Seafood four years ago. Together with Founders’ very recent investment in Walt’s Wholesale Meats, this transaction sees Founders go even deeper into specialty protein and our building of a large portfolio through our Purewater Foods platform, which will be our primary focus going forward.”
Photo courtesy of Seattle Fish Company