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The seafood business: trusting in distribution.

As the seafood industry continues to strive for "20 by 2000," there are two other numbers that ought to be of paramount concern to all of us: 14.8 and 6. According to the National Fisheries Institute, Americans consume 14.8 pounds of seafood every year, a number that is not expected to grow significantly over the near term. Six? That's the number of full years we have left until the year 2000, indicating that, if we are to reach our goal, all of us in this industry have our work cut out for us.

I emphasize that it is a job for every one of us because endeavoring to raise seafood consumption is as much a matter of supply as it is of demand. Indeed, I don't believe that the two halves of the equation can be separated meaningfully. If seafood supplies are steady, abundant, reasonably priced and of good quality, the public will be there to purchase it.

As a major importer of frozen seafood, my firm has long realized that our business is about expectations as much as it is about fish. Our clients, which include some of the nation's largest restaurant chains, supermarket chains and food service operations, demand wholesome, high-quality products that are delivered in a timely fashion. More than that, however, they require that these products be readily available to them on a year-round basis. That is because the steadier and more reliable the supply is, the easier it is for them to plan long-term marketing and promotional efforts. The more such efforts they undertake, the more seafood they will sell. And the more seafood they sell, the more confidence suppliers have in making a year-round commitment to us.

But ensuring that every participant in the distribution chain always has its expectations met is considerably more difficult in the case of seafood than it is for, say, hamburger. Seafood, subject to the vagaries of climate, aquaculture measures, harvesting techniques, water quality and myriad other factors, is among the least predictable of all food products. In addition, the great variety of fresh and frozen seafood products, while lending color and excitement to restaurant menus and retail display cases, adds an additional level of complexity to the challenge of meeting expectations.

As a result, my firm places a tremendous amount of emphasis on cultivating solid relationships between our suppliers and our clients to guarantee a steady supply of quality products. In an otherwise unpredictable business, in which our firm alone imports more than two million pounds of seafood each month, such relationships are the most effective means we have of ensuring an unbroken distribution chain from supplier to consumer.

These relationships are every bit as crucial as our financial resources in our efforts to maintain fully stocked inventories and provide ample choices to our clients. Our firm happens to be a family organization. But because of our emphasis on relationships, we make certain that this feeling of family extends far beyond our own office walls, to our clients and our suppliers.

As in any family, there are roles to play and expectations to be met. Part of our role as an importer is to choose the right suppliers and work with them. We also educate our customers and look for new ways to meet their needs. And, as one of the first major importers of frozen seafood to institute a voluntary inspection program, we also recognize that our role includes helping to make seafood supplies safe for the public.

In all these relationships -- with consumers, with our clients and with our suppliers -- we are endeavoring to add an extra measure of reliability and trust to the distribution chain. As we strive to raise America's consumption of seafood, enhancing the confidence of every party concerned will be of ever greater importance. Accordingly, we will continue to focus on what we've been doing all along: serving as a consistent and reliable partner in a process that brings the consumer a quality product, time and time again.

Tom Mazzetta President The Mazzetta Company
COPYRIGHT 1993 Frozen Food Digest, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Mazzetta, Tom
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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