ThisFish: Pandemic creates “new normal” for digitization
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for a digital transformation in seafood, according to ThisFish Inc. Co-Founder and CEO Eric Enno Tamm.
The seafood industry is lagging behind other industries in its embrace of digitization and move toward greater transparency in supply chains, Tamm said, and it must embrace the opportunity provided by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic to reorganize itself.
Tamm praised the increasing number of forward-thinking seafood companies, brands, and retailers that have adopted or are moving to add blockchain technology, which he said is a means to provide operational transparency for customers. The seafood sector has not adopted transparency as quickly as the fashion, coffee, and chocolate industries, Tamm said, but it is catching up. The fact that there is a growing landscape of traceability technology providers – many powered by blockchain – that seafood companies can choose from is helping the adoption process, Tamm said. Some of the providers ThisFish found operating in this growing landscape include:
- Atato | First MSC-certified canned tuna traced on blockchain
- DigiFresh | Providing traceability technology to Niceland Seafood
- Evrythng | Providing supply chain solutions to Mowi
- Fishcoin | Pioneering blockchain traceability with small-scale producers
- fTrace | Initiative of GS1 Germany focused on European market
- IBM Food Trust | Providing traceability to Ecuador’s Sustainable Shrimp Partnership
- LegitFish | Launched in New England’s fisheries
- OpenSC | A partnership between WWF and the Boston Consulting group
- OpsSmart Global | Traceability services provider to Tesco and Betagro
- Provenance | An early blockchain provide is working with Princes on canned tuna
- Quillhash | Blockchain traceability in several sectors including seafood
- TE-FOODS | Blockchain traceability with a presence in Europe and Southeast Asia
- Trace Register | The pioneer and one of the largest traceability providers to U.S. retailers
- Traseable | Piloting traceable tuna from the South Pacific
- Vericatch | Launched KnowYour.Fish
- Wholechain | Piloting blockchain in Dungeness crab and Fair Trade shrimp
The value of adding blockchain and creating a more trusted, transparent brand in seafood can be significant, Tamm said.
“Increased transparency builds consumer trust and, along with strong marketing and storytelling, can lift a brand’s social cache, earning it higher prices. Seafood is a commodity, subject to price sensitivity from gluts and shortages in supply. However, building a trusted brand powered by cutting-edge traceability technology can generate premium prices,” Tamm said.
Tamm cited the listing of transparency in Innova Market Insights’ recent list of the top 10 trends for 2021 as evidence the industry faces little choice but to adapt to the new reality that traceability and transparency are rapidly becoming imperatives rather than luxuries. In the report, Innova Director of Insights and Innovation Lu Ann Williams called the transparency movement "the leading trend to watch this year."
"Transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate in 2021, with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products, and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate,” Williams said.
Tamm said the seafood industry is also confronting a similar need to adapt meet a future dominated by e-commerce and online shopping.
Shopify, an e-commerce platform, recently released market research revealing how the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly forced a major shift in the U.S. market toward online sales.
“COVID-19 massively accelerated trends that we were already seeing – it packed a decade of e-commerce growth into a single year,” Shopify said in its report. “Homebound consumers dramatically changed their shopping behavior, and millions of businesses were forced to invest more heavily in their existing e-commerce channels or go online for the first time.”
A survey conducted by Shopify looked at 11 global markets and found 84 percent of consumers shopped online during the pandemic. The most important shift in 2020 for the seafood industry was that food and beverage became the largest online consumer packaged goods (CPG) segment at 44 percent, higher than beauty and fashion, Shopify said. Total online sales of food and beverage grew 125 percent from the previous year to USD 106 billion (EUR 89 billion), according to research from the Food Industry Association (FMI) and NielsenIQ.
ThisFish has noted an increasing prevalence of apps and e-commerce platforms that support seafood with direct-to-consumer (D2C) and B2B opportunities. A list of some of the top innovators compiled by ThisFish include:
- Fresh Captain | A B2B platform for seafood in India
- Freshline | Formerly seafood-focused Coastline, an online app for fresh food sellers
- JET Seafood Portal | A B2B seafood platform based in Norway
- KnowSeafood | Online D2C shop based in New England
- Lota | A platform for D2C seafood sales in Portugal
- PeskyFish | A UK-based marketplace for seafood
- ProcSea | A French-Swiss platform to automate buying and selling of seafood
- SaleFish.io | Software to automate online sales, marketing and ordering
- Seafood Souq | An online global marketplace for seafood
- Shore Trade | An online marketplace for B2B seafood sales
- Tuna Solutions | An online auction for tuna
- xpertSea | The shrimp-tech start-up has pivoted to a farmer-buyer platform
- Yorso | Online app for the wholesale fish and seafood businesses
ThisFish sees competition for seafood companies getting fiercer as more plant-based proteins and cell-cultured seafood items enter the market. Tamm said the FAO Fish Price Index is forecasted to fall by 2 percent by 2029, and he said he believes that will create more pressure on seafood processors to diversify, strength their brand integrity, and generate efficiencies through digital transformation.
Photo courtesy of Eric Enno Tamm/LinkedIn