Maximum Seafood (Maximum) is making waves in the ever-popular live and fresh seafood market. Since 2001, the Ontario-based seafood wholesaler has been importing a variety of species from all corners of North America and delivering quality-assured fresh seafood to retailers throughout the province.
“We’re a family-run business,” shares Max D’Elia, CEO of Maximum. “I’ve been in the seafood industry since I was in high school, which is about 28 years now.” D’Elia purchased Maximum in 2001 with the help of his brother, Leo, as well as his brother-in-law, Tony D’Angelo.
Since inception the company has become a big player in the Ontario market, importing and exporting products from a 30,000-square-foot facility in Vaughn, Ontario. “We have about 40 full-time employees,” notes D’Elia.
Maximum has the capacity to import an array of live species with six swimming pools. “The pools are 20 feet-long and 4 feet-deep and can hold up to 10,000 pounds-per-tank,” reveals D’Elia. “We hold live turbot and striped bass, largemouth bass, tilapia, eels, salmon and catfish among other species.”
In an effort to streamline operations several years ago, D’Elia started the company’s own in-house trucking fleet. “Our subsidiary company, All The Way Trucking [All The Way], is a huge part of our business,” reveals Kenneth Lawrence, controller for Maximum. “We also own tractors, refrigerated trailers and special live-fish hauling trailers that help us transport a large amount of live species.”
The subsidiary has proven to be an asset. “All The Way’s primary job is to get live, fresh fish from the U.S. and deliver to our location in Ontario,” continues Lawrence. “We set up the subsidiary by leasing the trucks when other companies wouldn’t go to some of the locations we wanted to travel to in the U.S.”
Therefore, Maximum decided to take matters into its own hands and establish All The Way. “We’re not a transportation company, so it was a bit of a learning curve, but we realized ways to run smarter,” notes Lawrence. “When we go to Florida or Boston for fish we work with third parties, bringing a load with us on the way down and acting as a freight-hauling company. We drop off the load and pick up our product and it ensures we’re never running the trucks empty. It’s worked well for us and helped lower our operating costs.”
Lowering operating costs allows Maximum to focus on specific value-added products. “We make some value-added, ready-to-eat products for certain customers,” reveals Lawrence. “We make crab cakes, salmon burgers, cod cakes, Cajun salmon, roasted halibut, stuffed lobster, stuffed tilapia and stuffed calamari.”
Maximum is always keeping an eye on what’s fresh and popular in the seafood market. “We’re working on carrying new species of exotic live fish from Hub City Fisheries in Victoria, British Columbia,” shares Lawrence. “The live fish market has always been popular with our Asian customers, but now more and more clients are demanding it. People are looking for the freshest possible options.”
Just Keep Swimming
While Maximum has fine-tuned its business practices and operations over the years, Lawrence says it’s not always easy to stay above water in the fishing industry. “Our main regulator is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency [CFIA],” he details. “We have to report all imported fish with the species name, origin and supplier information for traceability or in the case of a recall.”
Aside from CFIA regulations, Lawrence says more customers are demanding higher safety protocols and handling methods. “From how we keep the plant floor to bringing in fish and handling the product to the temperature of the truck, people want to know the items were properly handled and chilled,” he says. “It gives our customers confidence in the product’s safety; all of the big guys are demanding this now.”
To keep up with safety regulations Maximum has hired a food safety manager. “Our food safety manager oversees all food safety operations,” adds Lawrence. “Fish are sample tested for histamines, as well as mercury.”
Another reason for concern is sustainability. “People are more environmentally conscious now than ever, as well,” reveals Lawrence. “Suppliers are asking more questions about where fresh seafood was caught and sourced, because protecting species for generations to come is a main concern. It’s now quite standard for us to field questions on the sourcing of fresh seafood. It’s wildly popular and people want to consume it, but they also want to know it’s come from a sustainable source and practices.”
Maximum continues to see the most growth in the live and fresh seafood market. “People are always looking for new, exciting and healthier options,” adds D’Elia. “The live market is popular, because you really can’t get any fresher than that.”
D’Elia sees Maximum targeting the fresh seafood market and moving west into British Columbia, sourcing and supplying more customers in the region. “The markets are doing well in Ontario and British Columbia,” he claims. “We’re increasing our in-house capabilities through new technology to help control quality and costs and we’re well-prepared to support a growing fresh seafood market share.”
Maximum Seafood continues to source from the highest quality, sustainable stocks from around the U.S. and Canada, emerging as a fierce competitor in the fresh seafood market.