Sysco, Price Chopper lead by example
The supplier-buyer relationship is the foundation of the seafood trade, and suppliers need to work directly with buyers to ensure product quality and consistency and prevent short weighting, species substitution and other forms of economic fraud, said panelists at Monday's conference "What High Profile Buyers Want" at the International Boston Seafood Show.
"We're not going to tolerate it," said Butch Vidrine, director of seafood sourcing for Sysco Corp. in Houston. "If you cheat, we won't do business with you. We hope all buyers do the same thing."
To ensure product quality and consistency, Vidrine had to pare down Sysco's army of seafood suppliers. In recent years, the broadliner has cut its number of black tiger shrimp suppliers from 159 to three, Pacific white shrimp suppliers from 300 to seven, mahimahi suppliers from 60 to three and scallop suppliers from 25 to two.
"The seafood business is no place for the weak-hearted," said Lee French, VP of seafood merchandising for Price Chopper supermarkets in Schenectady, N.Y. "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. At Price Chopper, we make lemonade. What consumers say they do and what they actually do are two different things.
"Let's keep it simple - simple for the retailer, simple for the customer," added French. "We do not have vendors, at Price Chopper we have trade partners."
Jeff Moore, CEO of International Pacific Seafood in Fullerton, Calif., said there are suppliers and there are providers. Suppliers are involved in a single transaction with buyers, while providers are involved in three transactions - from distributors to operators to consumers - ensuring product quality and consistency throughout the supply chain. International Pacific Seafood, which supplies both Sysco and Price Chopper, is a provider, said Moore.
"You've got to be source-based and solution-driven," said Moore.