Partner Seafood Inc.: A Growing International Presence in the Fisheries Industry

Partner Seafood Inc., headquartered in Shediac, New Brunswick, is an international business that focuses on marketing and production management, importing seafood from over 10 countries and exporting to over 40 countries around the world. Partner Seafood practices market-specific production in its plants, customizing the processing and packaging of the finest fresh/frozen fish and seafood based on each's clients' specific needs. Paul Farrah, founder and president of the company, explains, “My philosophy is to maximize the value of each of our products, while protecting the raw materials.”
An Impressive Record of Growth
While Partner Seafood is a relatively small operation, it does big business in Atlantic species, in frozen and salted form, including mackerel, tongue sole, sardine, salmon, herring, Greenland halibut, carpe, scallops, shrimp and more. With five full-time employees in Shediac, agents in France and Iceland, and an affiliated office in the United States with three representatives, the company has built a truly global operation.
According to Farrah, who has a background in emarketing and consulting and has been in the fisheries industry for 10 years, Partner Seafood is distinguished from the competition because “in this international industry we try to be innovative in our approach compared to some competitors, who buy from a plant and sell to customers in what is just a financial transaction.”
Doing far more than brokering, Partner Seafood has forged relationships with fisherman, as well as established a network of worldwide affiliated cold-store facilities, thus allowing the company to offer clients cost-efficient strategies to assure deliveries arrive on time and targeted toward specific regions. Farrah explains, for example, that the United States is the company’s biggest market for snow crab, but Partner Seafood does not look to limit its snow crab sales to simply funneling product into that market to maximize sales by quantity. Instead, Partner Seafood succeeds through diversification and through being deeply customer-oriented. With the snow crab, for instance, Partner Seafood is selling that product not only to the U.S., but also to Japan, China and South Korea clients, adapting the product for specialty markets through such means as tailoring region-specific spices for specific seafood.
This approach has been highly successful for Partner Seafood; in the nearly four years since its May 2007 founding, Partner Seafood has increased its annual revenue more than eight-fold. Farrah explains that the company’s biggest challenge is not related to the economy; rather, it is an issue faced by all companies in the seafood industry. Farrah explains that Partner Seafood's business threshold is at the mercy of fisheries and how much product they catch. He continues, “If a season is bad in Canada, we don’t land as many tons. If we can’t catch the product, we can’t sell it. This is something that is unpredictable, and that’s why we have several sourcing areas. If one doesn’t go well one year, we go to the next.” To assure minimal interrupt in supply Partner Seafood targets three major zones for catching product: Newfoundland, Iceland and the eastern coast of the United States.
In addition to diversified sources for its product, the company has successfully diversified the areas to which it exports. Farrah observes that for some companies that count the United States as a consumer of the majority of its products, the economic downturn in that country created a real challenge. He points out that Partner Seafood has been able to “counterbalance. We focus more on France, China or Russia, for example, if sales are not as good in the U.S.”
A Business Philosophy Founded on Values
One of the keys to Partner Seafood’s success over the last few years has been the relationships it has built doing business. Farrah explains, “We are loyal and faithful to our suppliers – the fishermen – as well as to our vendors and to our customers. It is my philosophy to be faithful and to build on solid ground for years. Once the foundation is there, the process rolls by itself, and we can focus on building something else.”
In determining with whom to form business partnerships, Farrah considers a few key factors. He notes, “The first thing I ask is whether a supplier will be able to supply for the long term. Will that partner have access to resources? Has the company been in the industry for a long time with a reputation for being reliable? I also look into the processing that the company does and the vessels used. Can we sell the supplier’s product to European or U.S. markets with no problems? And I really look at whether a potential partner conducts business in an honest and faithful way. Because we conduct worldwide business, we put a lot of energy into picking the right partners.”
Partner Seafood will also look at a potential partner’s distribution channels and its reach within a targeted region. Because Partner Seafood often plans to serve an entire market, distribution channels are important, as are large storage capacities of potential suppliers.
These relationships are key because Partner Seafood places an emphasis on quality control and traceability. Additionally, the company works only with species that are sustainable, both due to environmental reasons and sound business strategy that dictates supplying customer bases with products with long-term availability. Traceability is valuable because the company sells to many sophisticated distributors who sell to schools, universities and catering companies for whom food safety is crucial. It is therefore important to both Partner Seafood and its distributors to be able to trace any potential problem with fish to the very fishing vessel from which the product originated. Farrah observes, “This involves more work to move that same lot of fish, but we sleep better at night. We go by the book, and if there ever were to be a problem, we can trace it. And that’s a good marketing tool. Our customers know this.”
In the near future, Farrah plans to continue to expand the company’s reach into international markets. Currently, Partner Seafood is developing a plan to invest in a processing plant in Morocco. The company will rent the plant and buy product from local boats, which was an impossibility before. Partner Seafood will hire a staff and process fresh fish there to preserve freshness. Farrah also reports that the company is investing in new processing machines for some of its plants, including one in Newfoundland.
With its thoughtful, business-savvy approach within the industry and a history of smart growth, Partner Seafood Inc. is well poised to continue its expansion around the globe, living up to its promise of “always fresh, always there,” delivered through “a unique approach to a traditional industry.”