Whether it is tilapia harvested in Ecuador, farm-raised trout from Idaho or oysters sourced from the Gulf of Mexico North Atlantic Coast, Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico scours oceans, lakes, rivers and aquaculture farms seeking the best catch for its customers. Its founder and CEO Craig Risk explains that Seattle Fish Company, as a distributor of only seafood, is able to offer an expertise that many do-it-all distributors do not.
“We certainly believe that we’re not successful unless our customers are successful,” Risk says. “Our goal is to help our customers succeed by developing a relationship that provides them with a more specific knowledge than they get from broadline, non-specialty food distributors. We give them a broader variety of seafood with more information of that product and more diverse cuts of a product they might be buying.”
In essence, when it comes to seafood, Seattle Fish Company strives to give New Mexico and West Texas foodservice operators, restaurants and retailers exactly what they want. This means it has to maintain an assorted and robust product list of more than 800 seafood varieties, beginning with alligator and going all the way to walleye.
Seattle Fish Company’s sourcing team works closely with processors and producers around the globe to secure a consistent supply of the world’s freshest and best-tasting fish and seafood. It also means the company delivers special orders. Whether it’s whole fish, made-to-order cuts of fresh fish or premium-quality frozen seafood products, Seattle Fish Company delivers the types of seafood its customers want the way they want it.
“The broadline food companies tend to be our largest competition but they also tend to have much higher minimum order sizes,” Risk says. “We are locally owned and operated and can make quick decisions if a client is looking for something particular. We do custom processing, portion cutting or re-portioning. It’s not just filets, but also particular portion sizes cut to certain specifications. We do that for many clients.”
Built for Production
It does it all from its Albuquerque, N.M., headquarters, which receives daily deliveries from Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Los Angeles; Anchorage, Alaska; Boston and Miami. The facility is close to Albuquerque International Airport and two blocks from I-25 and I-40 – the crossroads to Santa Fe, Las Cruces, El Paso and West Texas.
The facility houses 250,000 cubic feet of freezer storage with a modern rack system to ensure inventory management and control, a 5,000-square-foot refrigerated storage area with multiple temperature zones to meet the unique temperature needs of each product, 2,500 cubic feet of product space and a refrigerated receiving and loading dock. The company also owns and operates a 5,000-square-foot distribution facility in El Paso to serve its El Paso and southern New Mexico clients.
Both facilities adhere to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s HACCP Seafood Inspection Program. It is regularly inspected by government agencies to guarantee safety, and contracts with NSF Cook and Thurber for additional independent inspections. Seattle Fish Company is also a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified distributor, which is a reflection of Risk’s own passion for sustainability.
Sea Sustaining Practices
“We are the only distributor in New Mexico that has gone through the third-party process to become MSC-certified and we’ve been certified for four years,” Risk says.
“MSC is a label applied to products that can only be distributed through an authorized MSC distributor and in turn sold as an MSC product in retail or foodservice,” he explains. “There are about 150 fisheries worldwide covered by MSC and we distribute about 40 of those products today.”
Though not all of its products are MSC-certified, Seattle Fish Company does strive to find the highest-quality sustainable products in each seafood category. Despite the economic downturn, Risk explains that quality and sustainability still top many consumers’ lists of wants. Fortunately, these trends are things that the seafood distributor has been committed to since it was founded in 1995.
“We are seeing customers looking for seafood with a high quality but at lower cost – a better value,” Risk explains. “So some clients are offering their customers smaller options at a reduced price or using merchandise that isn’t quite as familiar as lobster, scallops or swordfish. Instead, they are using things like New Zealand Hoki, South African Capensis and we’ve seen more utilization of squid.
“We are also seeing in general that restaurants are more interested in where their food is coming from and if it’s sustainable or not, and wanting to support sustainable fisheries,” Risk continues. “It’s helped us because we are positioned right for that.”
Looking to the future, Risk says that Seattle Fish Company will continue to serve clients in its 400-to-500 mile radius with top-quality seafood.
According to Risk, the company projects it will exceed $30 million in sales this year, which “is small for a broadline distributor, but not small when you’re only selling seafood,” he says. Risk says the company will also continue to improve its client-centric focus and sharpen its focus on sustainability because these have been crucial components of its success.
“We tend to be customer service-oriented and quality oriented,” Risk says. “If people are looking for a low-cost provider, we tell them that we can provide a great value, but are not necessarily the lowest cost per pound.
“We are looking for unique items that are sustainable and we award fisherman and fisheries that provide a good product,” he adds.