US salmon smoker sues Agrosuper, AquaChile

Published on
January 8, 2020

A United States salmon smoker sued Agrosuper and its AquaChile division, alleging that AquaChile’s breach of contract caused a potential buyer to back out of purchasing the smokehouse.

Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A.-based The Santa Barbara Smokehouse and Cyprus-based DHBrands are sueing Agrosuper in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. and Empress AquaChile S.A. in Puerto Montt, Chile. The Santa Barbara Smokehouse’s Cambridge House and Coastal Harbor brands are sold at Whole Foods Market and to international hotel chains.

In the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Barbara alleges that, due to AquaChile’s inability to supply it with “washed” salmon fillets during the first half of 2019, a prospective buyer of The Santa Barbara Smokehouse backed out of purchasing the company.

“The Smokehouse was on track to meet the performance goals up to the anticipated time of closing, and everything appeared on course to reach a firm agreement and closure of a sale,” Santa Barbara wrote in the complaint. “Had a sale been completed, it would have conferred significant economic benefits on the Smokehouse and DHBrands.”

However, AquaChile said in October 2019 that it would cut off supplying raw salmon fillets to Santa Barbara, as “retribution for the Smokehouse’s prior lawsuit against Agro America,” the complaint said.

“There was no apparent economic reason for AquaChile not to sell the fillets to the Smokehouse or to continue supplying fillets, as AquaChile would have made profits on such sales,” Santa Barbara said.

Santa Barbara sued Agro America, which was Agrosuper’s subsidiary and distribution arm in the U.S., in 2015 for allegedly supplying it with listeria-tainted salmon fillets.

When Santa Barbara disclosed the salmon supply cutoff to its prospective buyer, the buyer said it could not go ahead with the purchase.

“AquaChile’s refusal to supply the Smokehouse with salmon fillets as agreed has caused the Smokehouse and DHBrands (as well as their owners) to lose significant economic benefits…it has also caused plaintiffs to incur additional losses related to the failed sale attempt,” the complaint stated.

A representative of Agrosuper did not immediately respond to SeafoodSource's request for comment.

Photo courtesy of The Santa Barbara Smokehouse website

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