Rainforest Seafoods takes 'the high road' when exporting to international markets
Rainforest Seafoods, a supplier of premium quality fish and seafood with its headquarters in Jamaica and operations in other Caribbean territories, has recently been doing major expansion of its facilities, as well as moving into new markets in Europe, Asia, the US and beyond. In those markets they are selling Jamaica lobster and conch. Mr. Max Jardim, Rainforest Seafood's business development manager, agreed to respond to some questions from SeafoodSource about what the experience was like for a Caribbean exporter moving into international markets.
SeafoodSource: Rainforest Seafoods announced that it entered markets in Europe, the United Arab Emirates, China, and the United States, between end of last year and start of this year. Could you please tell us who your main buyers are? Are they restaurants, supermarkets, or some other type of business and are there any major brand names?
Jardim: We market under the Rainforest Seafoods brand and we ship to retailers and wholesalers.
SeafoodSource: Can you please give us an idea of the quantity of lobsters you are exporting. Please do likewise with regard to your conch exports.
Jardim: When our facility in St Vincent comes on line in late 2018 we will have the capacity to ship 1,000 metric tons (MT) per annum.
SeafoodSource: Could you please tell us why you selected these countries' markets for these types of exports?
Jardim: Our customers found us. Although we have been producers for a short time (five years), our brand and products are synonymous with the highest quality and harvested using sustainable methods only. Our customers can sleep comfortably at night knowing our commitment to quality and the environment is unwavering.
SeafoodSource: Did you employ the services of a consultant to direct your marketing thrust or did you depend on an in-house research team?
Jardim: A healthy mix of in-house research and marketing consultants. We work closely with a handful of experienced marketers from different countries who helped us to flatten out the learning curve.
SeafoodSource: Was this recent success your first attempt to enter these markets? If not, what lessons did you learn from your initial attempts that helped you to be successful this time around?
Jardim: Yes, this was our first attempt. Like with any venture there were teething pains but from these experiences what we really learned is that in order to produce quality products, you cannot take the cheap route. Take the high road and invest in both your supply chain and processing infrastructure.
SeafoodSource: Did you face any special challenges as a Caribbean-based exporter seeking to enter any of these markets? Please give specific details. How did you meet those challenges?
Jardim: Most of the fishing communities in the Caribbean, from our experience, operate with technologies and practices that are 20 years old. Across the Caribbean it is this way, and it becomes a culture. Our biggest challenge was changing this culture. Showing fishers new techniques that improve handling in order to ensure food safety, suggesting changes in their fishing gear to encourage sustainable harvesting and collaborating with fishers to land live animals which will always improve the quality. In every territory we are committed to being an active member of the supply chain infrastructure; we get deep into the fabric of the fishing communities.
SeafoodSource: Did you expand or upgrade your facilities to supply these markets? If so, in what ways?
Jardim: Yes, this is a must. Everything from rigorous training of personnel to constructing multiple rooms to separate high-risk areas from low-risk areas. All factors have been considered. Our facilities are EU compliant, HACCP certified and will be BRC certified before year end 2017.
SeafoodSource: What specific challenges did you face with regard to the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations of each country and how did you meet those challenges?
Jardim: Although our operations are all in the Caribbean, each country has their independent SPS Authority. This meant that each facility has to conform slightly to their respective competent authority.
SeafoodSource: Was meeting those SPS standards a major additional expense for your business? Do you care to say how much you spent on ensuring you met those SPS standards?
Jardim: Yes, but every dollar spent was worth it. All facilities are designed the same, utilize the same processing techniques and produce the same high-quality products so that the brand, regardless of the origin, will be consistent.
SeafoodSource: What is Rainforest Seafoods' total metric tons in sales annually and what is the estimated increased amount of sales thanks to international exports?
Jardim: Rainforest handles 15,000 MT per annum. Our regional Lobster+Conch thrust will add six to 10 per cent to that.
SeafoodSource: What plans are in the pipeline for further expansion into international markets?
Jardim: We have an exciting line of consumer goods that will be marketed both throughout our home territories within the Caribbean and also various markets outside of the Caribbean. Our primary target is Caribbean people living in advanced economies.