Supplier Watch: Techniques for making a sustainable profit


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
November 30, 2010

The role of a seafood supplier is becoming more complex with the gradual depletion of our natural seafood resources.  Successful suppliers will both supply the best seafood at the best price, but will also educate their buyers on the importance of sustainability to allow for longevity of both industries. Below are five steps to becoming a successful, sustainable seafood supplier.

1) Define sustainability

Take the guesswork out of sustainability. There are thousands of NGOs all with differing advice, and it can be difficult for chefs to navigate the NGO battlefield to determine what is sustainable and what isn't. Develop a sustainable seafood list that includes information on the area where the species is caught and the method of catch.

2) Set a goal

Set a goal for your company and publicize it so that your buyers become contributors and owners of that goal.  Whether it is to source 10 percent sustainable seafood by the end of the following year or 50 percent, the goal will give you a guideline for your efforts.

3) Find a partner

Find a marine resources partner in your area who can balance your educational efforts with their knowledge and expertise. This can be the nearest aquarium or an NGO that has a sustainable seafood research arm.  Look to them to:
- Fact-check your sustainable  seafood list
- Suggest local seafood items that can replace red-list items
- Assist with trainings
- Keep you updated to changes in scientific research

4) Communicate & educate 

Work continuously with chefs to understand sustainability as a concept and what makes a species sustainable. Chefs are trying to balance sustainability with profit.  Use your knowledge to help them by evaluating their current purchasing practices and making suggestions for replacing red-list items.

Offer trainings at restaurants and hotels. Hold monthly events for chefs and tell them about what's new and what's happening with new products on the market.  Publish a newsletter on updates and changes in scientific research.

5) Serve your suppliers both seafood and suggestions

The biggest challenge facing sustainability is trying to find alternatives for seafood and finding new resources. Chefs always want something new; they want to be innovators and keep people enticed. It's your job as a distributor to find new great seafood items. The key to sustainability is essentially diversifying what diners are eating. There are a lot of great species that are underutilized.

This Supplier Watch was based on a SeafoodSource interview with Melissa Carrasquillo, chief sustainability officer of City Sea Foods.

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