Fischmagazin Interview of the month
We have been interviewed by the largest German fish related magazine: Fischmagazine.
We translated it into English for you. Would you rather read the original interview in German? Then please click on the link below.Read the original interview here (March 23' edition)
High-quality assortment of fish and seafood.
A stable, high-quality assortment of fish and seafood from sustainable fisheries – this is the claim formulated by the Dutch importer Blue World Seafood. From its headquarters in Nuenen, it supplies exclusive frozen products to foodservices and wholesalers. FischMagazin spoke with Managing Director Ben Sanders, Brand Manager Fréderique van der Kruk, Account Manager Jerrold Giesen, and COO Tom Vlielander.
FischMagazin: According to its homepage, your company was founded in 2009, 14 years ago.
Ben Sanders: Blue World Seafood was founded as part of Esro Food Group. At that time, the focus was on commodity products. We had tried to trade everything. But then you’re competing with everybody with all your products. So we were looking for our place in the market. To differentiate ourselves, we focused on a smaller range with high-quality products.
FischMagazin: What makes Blue World Seafood stand out?
Fréderique van der Kruk: Our core values are sustainability, quality and integrity. Often, sustainable products are traded, but they are not of high quality – or vice versa. We want to change that, because we believe we can offer products that are sustainable and of high quality. Our end consumers recognize our product because of our distinctive branding, so they know that they are buying quality when they buy from Blue World.
FischMagazin: The branches that Blue World Seafood supplies are gastronomy, retail and industry. Can you narrow down your target group further?
Ben Sanders: We supply the high end segment of the market. That means we mainly supply wholesale and foodservice companies throughout Europe, their customers in turn are high-end restaurants and sushi restaurants. We also sell our products to food retailers. It is difficult to find a company that offers all sushi products in high quality. We are building such a range.
FischMagazin: One of the fish species you highlight on your home page is tuna. So it is an important product of Blue World Seafood?
Ben Sanders: That’s right. There has been a lot of talk about tuna in recent years. People have gotten sick after eating tuna because some companies have sold tuna which has been treated illegally. Therefore, we only deal in high quality tuna with tested and legal ingredients. The technology that our suppliers use ensures that the original color of the tuna is preserved. This is allowed by law. Customers come to us because of the quality of this « red sashimi tuna ».
FischMagazin: You offer a wide range of convenience products with the yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), which are not available everywhere?
Ben Sanders: I have worked in restaurants myself and know their problems. Whether in Holland, in Germany, indeed in the whole of Europe: catering businesses generally have difficulty finding staff, especially sushi restaurants. We could, of course, continue to offer only whole tuna loins, but some chefs don’t know how to cut them, or don’t have the time. That’s why we offer pre-cut red tuna in sashimi quality: slices, cubes, tartare, saku blocks, steaks and so on. In this way, we help our customers and the restaurants, as end-users to be able to use a high-quality, sustainable product with as little labor as possible.
FischMagazin: Besides tuna, which products do you describe as your core products?
FischMagazin: Can you describe the difference between the European farmed yellowtail mackerel or Hiramasa (Seriola lalandi) and the Japanese amberjack or Hamachi (Seriola quinqueradiata) ?
Ben Sanders: Hamachi from Japan, which we feature, is sort of a wild! The juveniles are caught in the sea and then fattened up in basins at sea. Hiramasa, on the other hand, is farmed in basins on land. The fat content of hamachi is higher than that of hiramasa, so hamachi has more flavor. Japanese chefs want to use only this Japanese hamachi.
FischMagazin: You have half a dozen lobster products in your range: whole raw and cooked lobsters, carcasses, claws, tails and meat. How does Blue World Seafood with lobster?
Ben Sanders: We are quite strong in Canadian lobster. The business has grown significantly in the last few years and we’re getting better and better there. When the customer asks for other specifications we’re always looking for new opportunities. Lobster is a high-priced product. When you spend money on it, you want to be absolutely sure that you are getting that high quality that you want for your customers. We do a quality check before we send the product to the customer. That means unlike other suppliers: We have already done your quality control.
FischMagazin: The Black Cod, also known as Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) is just starting to come into our market, a new trend. What kind of fish is it?
Jerrold Giesen: We get it from Canada. Black cod is very popular throughout the top gastronomy industry because of its quality and texture. It has snow-white, silky, firm flesh with velvety melt-in-the-mouth and excellent butteriness. For Black Cod we have a high demand in Switzerland, but it also goes to premium gastronomy in Germany, the Michelin restaurants. There are not many companies that import this fish, which makes it also interesting for us. At the moment we sell the whole fish without the head and in March we will start with pre-packaged fillets. Similar to our convenience products from tuna, we are responding to the shortage of staff: all you have to do is cook the Black Cod and it’s done.
FischMagazin: Who buys the fillets and steaks of the Butterfish (Lepidocybium favobrunneum)?
Jerrold Giesen: Butterfish or Oilfish is an important product in the DACH region, especially in Germany. It is very suitable for frying and smoking, but also for sushi. There are really big differences in the quality of this product. We have been working with our Indonesian supplier for years, so we get very good quality. Customers want a bright white butterfish fillet or steak and we can offer that because our circulation rate is high.
FischMagazin: Do you have other products for smokehouses?
Ben Sanders: Yes, sockeye salmon, and for a few customers, Tuna. The sockeye from Alaska or Canada is a new product for us. We will receive the first container with fillets in April. We want to expand in this market segment.
FischMagazin: What is the significance of your Blue World Seafood brand?
Fréderique van der Kruk: When you buy Blue World Seafood, you don’t just want to eat fish today, but you also want to eat it 30 years from now. Thanks to our quality control and certifications, we can guarantee that. We sell 95 percent of our products under Blue World Seafood. When you walk into a store, you immediately recognize our items. And the brand signals: We stand behind the quality of our products.
FischMagazin: Blue World Seafood is headquartered in Nuenen (the Netherlands) 60 kilometers from the German-Dutch border. Do you have any other locations?
Ben Sanders: We are opening an office in Spain later this year. But the rest of the sales department works out of Holland.
FischMagazin: How do you keep in touch with your suppliers?
Ben Sanders: We visit our suppliers, both existing and new. It’s not that we buy from a supplier because they have a great website and a good price. We, my purchasing manager and I, go to factories to see where our fish comes from: to meet the people who produce the fish and to learn about the fish from them. What does it eat, what methods are used to kill it, is it sustainable?
FischMagazin: You write that Blue World Seafood currently sells to 28 countries worldwide. What does your distribution area look like?
Ben Sanders: We serve all of Europe, from Portugal to Finland and beyond. And we’re looking to expand overseas: to Canada, to the U.S., and we’re also working on sales to the Middle East.
FischMagazin: Do you have your own cold storage?
Ben Sanders: We buy whole containers that arrive in Rotterdam and work with partners to store our products in Holland. From this stock, our customers can buy by the pallet. We have customers who buy one mixed pallet as well as those who order 10 or 50 pallets of one item.
FischMagazin: What are your goals?
Ben Sanders: We are not yet the largest importer, there is still a lot of room to grow. I am young enough to develop our company. When we left Esro Seafood two years ago, we were six people, in a few months we will hire the 17th for our new office in Spain.
FischMagazin: At which fairs can customers meet you?
Fréderique van der Kruk: We exhibit at several fairs. In mid-January 2023 we exhibited at HoReCava in Amsterdam which is a Dutch trade fair for hotels, restaurants and commercial kitchens similar to Intergastra. This was a real success for us. In April we will be at Seafood Expo Global (SEG) in Barcelona, you can meet us in Hall 3 Booth 3 I 900. Since SEG was extremely successful for us last year, we will have an even larger booth this year to meet with many people – including people from the DACH region. And we will bring our products with us: So that everyone can really see what we can deliver.