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May 22, 2019

The Global Commoditization of Seafood

Sophie Hunter-James
Director – SFS Trace

There’s an unfortunate reality occurring globally where seafood is treated as a simple commodity by business buyers and end consumers. The fault of this does not lie with any particular individual or group but is part of a larger issue with how the majority of seafood is bought and sold globally.

The problems lie in the discovery and delivery of international seafood products into local markets using a distribution model that has been the primary method for seafood selling and buying for a long time. Whilst this has reduced barriers to entry it has unfortunately led to the commoditization of seafood.

As a business buyer you have to look no further than your purchasing catalogue or as an end customer, just by going into your local supermarket you can see firsthand the lack of product variety and how differentiation extends to the product’s origin at best.

We’ve spoken to multiple chefs in order to understand their frustrations with current industry practices and the majority have openly voiced their concern that other than product origin there is no other information available to them at the time of purchase. Limitations are being placed on them in a highly competitive industry where any edge could help, but yet this key differentiating information isn’t being supplied.

Seafood can and should be distinguished in terms of unique attributes for example how it is caught and what practices the producer employs unique to their company, but instead often finds itself competing based on one single attribute — price. The result of this being that buyers are left with a restricted ability to differentiate between products, resorting only to price-driven decision making.

This commoditization of seafood is a symptom of a much larger issue; the lack of transparency and traceability.

During our visit to the Global Seafood Expo 2019 in Brussels, we observed firsthand the amount of information that is available from the producers of seafood showcasing their practices. From their company history, to product specifications, every step of the process is documented and their brand proudly adorned upon their products. Shockingly, none of this information makes it to the business buyers and end consumers in local markets.

At Seafood Souq, our mission is clear: to offer choice and variety to business buyers and their end customers. Seafood is not a simple commodity; each product is unique and the brand belongs to the producers. Traceability and transparency is the cure to resolving the commoditization of seafood and it shouldn’t come at any extra cost — the work is already being done by the seafood producers and supply chain managers. At Seafood Souq we are here to help transmit this message for the benefit of everyone.

Sophie Hunter-James
Director – SFS Trace

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