« May 2007 Table of Contents
Reeling in sales
North America's seafood suppliers positioned for
By Steven Hedlund
May 01, 2007
A favorable economic climate combined with increasing
seafood prices and burgeoning seafood demand worldwide helped
North America's Top 25 seafood suppliers reel in nearly $12.6
billion in 2006 sales, up about $1.3 billion from 2005,
according to SeaFood Business ' annual Top 25 list.
Red Chamber Co., Trident Seafoods Corp. and Pacific Seafood
Group are the leading firms fueling the $33 billion U.S.
wholesale seafood business.
In addition to the Top 25 list and synopses of the Top 10
companies, this year SeaFood Business taps the insight of
industry analysts, who paint a bright future for suppliers.
"Generally speaking, seafood companies are as healthy as
I've seen them," says Tim Antilla, VP and senior relationship
manager for Wells Fargo in Seattle, whose clients include
seafood suppliers. "They're more efficient, better capitalized
and more liquid than five to 10 years ago. They're very well
In addition to improving internally, seafood suppliers are
growing organically, as well as through acquisitions and
The biggest transaction of the past year came in December,
when Japanese seafood giants Maruha Group and Nichiro Corp.
announced a merger, forming the world's largest seafood
company, with about $8.4 billion in annual seafood sales.
Maruha and Nichiro are Japan's No. 1 and No. 3 seafood
suppliers, respectively. The country's No. 2, Nissui, owns
UniSea and Gorton's, among other U.S. seafood suppliers.
The merger affected several Pacific Northwest seafood
suppliers. Maruha owns Westward Seafoods, Supreme Alaska
Seafoods, Alyeska Seafoods and Prime Pacific Seafoods, all of
Seattle; Orca Bay Seafoods of Renton, Wash.; and Trans-Ocean
Products of Bellingham, Wash. Nichiro holds Peter Pan Seafoods
and Golden Alaska Seafoods, both of Seattle.
The merger, due to be finalized later this year, isn't
impact these seafood suppliers in the near term,
say industry observers. But it's clear that the U.S. seafood
industry is consolidating.
"There's a lot of liquidity in the financial market right
now," says Jonathan Logan, managing director of North America
for Glitnir, whose clients also include seafood suppliers. "The
financial conditions favor borrowers and support increased
As the retail food industry consolidates, so will the
seafood industry, adds Antilla. "You need big companies to
supply big retailers," he says.
The private, family-run businesses that have dominated the
seafood industry for decades are thriving, while the food
conglomerates that jumped into the business years ago have
Only one food conglomerate, Del Monte Foods Co., owner of
StarKist Seafood Co., remains on this year's Top 25 list. Just
five years ago, five food conglomerates - ConAgra Foods, H.J.
Heinz Co., Unilever, George Weston Ltd. and Aurora Foods (now
Pinnacle Foods Group) - appeared on the list.
"The fact is that the food conglomerates are focused on
uniformity and vertical integration, but the seafood industry
is so fragmented," says Logan. "Most of the successful players
[in the seafood industry] have strong access to the resource,
and it's been a long road for them to get to that point."
"Seafood doesn't lend itself well to a neat, tidy balance
sheet," adds Scott Etzel, a consultant with the agricultural
industries department for Wells Fargo in Portland, Ore. "It
isn't easy to predict."
However, acquisitions and mergers in late 2006 weren't quite
as numerous as they were in early 2006, when a wave of deals
were reached, including Trident netting Louis Kemp Seafood Co.
from ConAgra Foods, Nippon Suisan USA buying F.W. Bryce and
Rich-SeaPak Corp. purchasing WorldCatch.
"Consolidation may not continue at the same pace," says
Also contributing to suppliers' continued financial success
is high seafood prices. Pacific halibut, king salmon and
American lobster are species fetching a pretty penny.
Plus, European whitefish supplies are tight, strengthening
demand for Alaska whitefish such as pollock and Pacific cod,
says Etzel. The dollar is depreciating and the euro is
appreciating, making it less expensive for Europeans to buy
Thanks to the protein's healthy profile, demand for seafood
is rising globally, particularly in the United States, where
the growing baby boomer and Hispanic populations are fueling
Ranking seafood suppliers by annual sales is an inexact
science. SeaFood Business asked company officials to share
financial information and reviewed public companies' annual
reports. We contacted about 35 companies to narrow the list to
our Top 25. Some companies declined to participate this year,
and those companies' sales figures are carried over from the
previous year, which is denoted by one asterisk (*). Companies
that fail to disclose sales figures for two consecutive years
are removed from the list. Other companies prefer to provide us
with a sales range, and, in that case, we use the median of the
sales range, which is indicated by two asterisks (**).