del pacifico sea foods

US firm eyes, Disney with new Fair Trade shrimp line First in Seafood News
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Kim Tran
03.03.2016 15:11 Updated: 03.03.2016 15:21

Del Pacifico shrimp picks up momentum with Fair Trade USA certification.

The future looks promising for a group of Mexican shrimp fisheries as talks with retailers and restaurants are underway and momentum is expected to pick up after its Fair Trade USA certification announcement last month.

Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) partnered with Fair Trade USA in a longterm fishery improvement project (FIP) for a Mexican shrimp fishery in 2009 and Californiabased Del Pacifico Seafoods and its sister processing facility MHMR International hold the certification, which covers eight smallscale cooperatives of artisanal shrimp producers in Sinaloa, Mexico. This is a first for Mexico and for shrimp fisheries worldwide; and it is the second fishery to earn this new certification.

"We're new to the industry, only about five years [in]," said Del Pacifico President and Founder Sergio Castro. "I've always loved the ocean and wanted to work with these fishery communities. If they do something wrong, it's because of ignorance. That's the reason why I decided to be part of the seafood industry."

"I wanted to start a nonprofit to educate the fishermen. I started talking to people in the industry and they said, 'if you want to make a change you need to get into the supply chain. You can still make money but you can start making changes too,'" he told IntraFish.

Castro started small, just buying directly from fishermen and he started noticing some had good sustainability measures in place but were not getting the credit.

"The fishermen don't have the power to go into the market and tell their story. We decided we need to make a brand in the US that represents fisheries who are sustainable or working toward improvements," he said.

"That's the reason why Del Pacifico was born a year and a half ago [fall 2014]."

Castro added he first approached other companies to carry the product, but were rejected as they did not want to create a different label to set apart the shrimp from other wild Mexican shrimp; thus Castro started his own company instead.

Del Pacifico gathered a team of marine biologists and got in contact with SFP's Juan Manuel Caudillo, who offered a Mexican shrimp FIP that was turned down by larger commercial companies.

Fair Trade USA entered the picture about a year ago at the Seafood Summit in New Orleans, said Fair Trade USA Fisheries Program Manager Ashley Apel. "Sergio was interested in Fair Trade because he was looking for market differentiation," she said.

Fair Trade USA debuted its first certified fishery, yellowfin tuna in February 2015.

From there, "it took the better part of a year to achieve the certification for the shrimp fisheries," Apel told IntraFish. "We talked to the head of the fishery cooperative to see if they're interested in Fair Trade, went through training and documentation and then they underwent their audit [in January]."

"We're working with local retailers, which Fair Trade has connections to," Castro said. "Last year we started selling to foodservice and the certification will help us get further into the retail channel."

So far, the shrimp is carried in Oregonbased grocery chain New Seasons Market, LA Fish King which deals with retail and foodservice and "our other clients are International Marine Products and Ocean Beauty. Ocean Beauty sells [our shrimp] in Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City and Boise," Castro told IntraFish.

"We're also talking to other larger companies and potential buyers," he said, adding that through International Marine Products, they're in talks with Disney restaurants Napa Rose and Club 33. Disney chef Justin Monson became interested when he was at Del Pacifico's plant during Fair Trade audit.

"Del Pacifico is working on finalizing buying contracts right now," said Apel. "The season is coming to a close so shrimp is being processed right now and we're hoping to get them into stores in the next couple of months."

Del Pacifico and Fair Trade USA are hosting a cocktail event during the upcoming Seafood Expo North America in Boston.

Castro added the shrimp is once frozen, not twice frozen like the majority of shrimp products in the marketplace.

During the 2015-16 season, MHMR processed 500,000 pounds of shrimp.

"Our goal for 2016-2017 is 750,000 pounds and 2017-2018 is 1 million pounds," Castro said.

Apel told Intra Fish Del Pacifico is the exclusive supplier at the moment as per the fishermen's choice.