“We survived” – True World Group President Robert Bleu: Staff cuts, divestments saved firm

Published on
February 2, 2023
True World Group President Robert Bleu.

True World Group President Robert Bleu said his sushi-focused seafood company is now on solid financial ground, but that the Covid pandemic nearly forced it out of business.

Bleu told SeafoodSource in March 2020 his company’s orders plunged 80 percent during the depths of the crisis, but said following steep cuts and a normalization of customer behavior following the reopening of the economy in 2022, True World Group is back on track.

The Rockleigh, New Jersey, U.S.A. based company owns True World Foods, the largest fresh fish distributor to high-end and mid-range sushi restaurants in North America, as well as Noble Village Group, which operates sushi restaurants, Japanese patisseries, and Asian small footprint markets, primarily in the U.S. Midwest. It sold subsidiaries International Seafoods of Alaska (ISA), which operated a processing plant in Kodiak, Alaska, to Silver Bay Seafoods in 2020, and Shining Ocean to surimi player Aquamar in December 2021, as well as a number of real estate holdings, in order to streamline its business and recoup cash as the business suffered in the depths of the pandemic.

“We have trimmed down our portfolio and it makes a stronger business, actually,” Bleu told SeafoodSource at the 2023 Global Seafood Market Conference in La Quinta, California, U.S.A. on 17 January. “Some of this stuff we had was really, like, not really a good business and some of it we decided it wasn’t that good a fit in our portfolio. We have significant opportunities in the two silos we have left – sushi restaurant distribution, and then in our retail to consumers. We've got a lot of opportunities there that look brighter than what we saw in those other businesses.

Bleu said letting go of Shining Ocean was a particularly tough blow for him.

“I was the president of Shining Ocean for six years, it was hard for me to do the sale, but it was the right call for us. Now we’re more focused,” Bleu said. “Covid caused plenty of hassles and a lot of grief. And that was very uncomfortable. [Surviving] has not been easy at all. It's been like a cat fight, but we have come through.”

Bleu said he cut workforce expenses by ... 

Photo courtesy of True World Group

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