« September 2006 Table of Contents
Editor's Note: Consolidation: bring it on
By Fiona Robinson, Editor in Chief
September 01, 2006
No other protein category is as ripe for consolidation as
seafood. Hundreds of commercially available seafood species are
sold by thousands of independent suppliers nationwide. But the
rising cost of doing business, from labor to transportation
costs, is forcing big and small companies to consider the
benefits of consolidation.
"Merge ahead," this issue's Top Story by Assistant Editor
James Wright, details the latest round of mergers and
acquisitions in the seafood business and examines what
consolidation means for the industry and the players
The majority of this industry's consolidation involves
suppliers selling to large supermarket chains. As the pool of
supermarket buyers shrinks, so does the number of suppliers
feeding the system.
Small seafood wholesalers selling to millions of independent
restaurants in the United States have been able to avoid
consolidation, for the most part. Pick a popular commercial
fishing port, and you'll find a handful of seafood-only
processors and distributors. This fragmented industry is good
for the independent chef or retail buyer looking for a lot of
options, but it makes more work for them. If a restaurant or
store runs out of haddock, the buyer might have to call four or
five processors to see who has product available, and at what
While many buyers tout their long-standing relationships
with their vendors and trust them implicitly, that is not the
industry standard. Many buyers purchase seafood strictly on
price and don't thoroughly check product when it arrives at the
back door. Several whitefish look similar when processed,
cooked and plated, which leaves the door open for unscrupulous
suppliers to sell fraudulent product.
The St. Petersburg Times brought home the stark reality that
seafood vendors are duping Florida chefs by passing tilapia and
other species off as more expensive grouper (see Newsline, page
10). Unfortunately this type of fraud is low on the radar
screen of state and federal authorities because of a lack of
resources. Even if legal action were taken against dishonest
seafood suppliers, there would have to be gigantic fines before
companies sat up and took notice.
If consolidation pressure is the only way to weed out
companies that tarnish the industry's reputation, then bring it
on. It'll benefit everyone.
As always, your feedback is welcome. If you're a retailer or
chef who has been duped by a vendor, please share your story
with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 842-5630.
Added note: This issue features a special Industry Leader
tribute to Wally Stevens, former president of Slade Gorton
& Co., on page 30. Wally retired to Florida last month
after dedicating almost 20 years to the seafood industry.
This quote from Future Leaders alumni Jenni Davis at Sea
Port Products sums up Wally's leadership role in the industry:
"What I will always remember about Wally Stevens is his unique
blend of high-power leadership with personable, down-to-earth
sincerity. These two character traits are the reason we all, no
matter how much or how little our contact was with him, refer
to him as an industry leader - Mr. Stevens - as well as a
personal friend - Wally."
I'm certain this goodbye is not forever. I look forward to
seeing Wally again at future industry events.