Supplier Spotlight: Seacore Seafood
To celebrate the partnership between ChefHero and Seacore, we wanted to present an exclusive deep dive into the company’s history. Learn about how they’ve evolved over their 30+ years to build an incredibly respected, sustainable and honest business.
We got together with Sal Battaglia (VP, Sales and Marketing) and Matt Chapin (Sales Representative) to talk about the history of Seacore, the current state of the seafood industry, and how they have transformed Seacore into a sustainable business.
How did Seacore get started in 1987?
[Sal] My father and his two nephews actually started Seacore in 1987 as a wholesaler. Before that, my father used to own a fish market down in the St. Lawrence Market in the 70’s so that’s how he initially got into the seafood business. From that market, he saw an opportunity for a wholesale business to come out of it. When Seacore started in ‘87, it was a 7,000 square foot building with just two little vans and had a handful of customers. Fast forward to today, our facility is about 77,000 square feet and we have over 22 delivery trucks in the Greater Toronto Area. We also employ 125 full-time employees and we’re still growing. My dad and his two nephews today are still the three owners of the company and a lot of our family’s second generation, including myself, are now involved with the business.
So what’s it like being part of a family business?
[S] It’s amazing. A lot of us that work here are related. 3 of my siblings work here, along with 3-4 of my cousins and our management team is mostly comprised of family. It’s a real family business that we’ve built. Just like any other family, everyone has their opinion, but we all work towards the betterment of the company. That’s what’s made us so successful to this day.
What types of relationships can customers expect to have with the whole Seacore family?
[S] They can expect to have actual relationships that get built over time. Each customer has a dedicated sales representative who is extremely knowledgeable about the seafood space. They also have customer service at their fingertips. Also, a lot of our drivers will drive the same general route so our customers build really great relationships with our drivers. There are a lot of channels to get in touch with Seacore and have that one-on-one experience. Everybody is looked after whether you are an independent business or a multi-location one, we’re set up to help all types of customers.
What are some of the benefits of working with Seacore for restaurants and retailers?
[S] Our biggest thing what we're known for with the restaurants or any of our customer is our quality. We can’t be beat. The reason for this is all of the logistics that we’ve built out within the business. For example, we have our own trucks go on the eastern seaboard to pick up directly from the docks to control that quality.
[Matt] We’re also known for our reliability and consistency; we make seafood easy. Back in the days seafood was really considered a hard item, especially for restaurants and that's why a lot of restaurants especially in the Toronto area don't have much seafood on their menus. By bringing that reliability consistency with the options available to restaurants, it makes having a seafood option much easier. Whether it's a fresh salmon or frozen shrimp or calamari for your menu, we always have an option that's going to be available day in and day out.
[S] Finally, I would say our level of service. We aim to put in the time and effort to understand our customers’ needs and service them to the best of our ability. From our sales reps, to our support team, it’s all hands on deck. For Toronto, we have three or four trucks going down to the downtown core every day and we provide restaurants with an AM and PM delivery option to meet whatever time works best for them. I think if you take all those three things that we try to do, as well as doing it at the most competitive price possible, we become an excellent choice for a restaurant to make us their seafood supplier.
Why should a restaurant choose to work with a local supplier like Seacore versus a major broadliner?
[M] We are the market experts when it comes to seafood. We know exactly what the local market is looking for, while broadliners may look at the market on a national level. When you think about it, what's working in Toronto might not work in other cities within Canada or North America, and that’s an important thing to consider when selling seafood. We see the trends what chefs and downtown Toronto diners are looking for, making us more hyper-focused on helping our customers meet their customers’ needs. Whether it's trying to source from a local trout farm or bringing a product that they maybe saw on The Food Network, we can work hand-in-hand with our customers to meet their supply needs and that’s a big benefit to the restaurants.
[S] Exactly, we’re the seafood specialists. We don’t do anything other than seafood. Within our catalogue, there are about 400 different species. However, each species has so many different types of cuts and sizings. So, when you get a list of 5,000+ items, you need that seafood expertise to understand the difference between all of the SKUs and we’re here to help chefs and restaurants make the best decision for their business.
Can you explain net weight versus gross weight?
[M] There's a lot of misrepresentation in the price per pound and customers aren't necessarily aware of what they're purchasing. That’s why we sell everything using net weight. It’s the honest thing to do. It’s also just really easy to sell price per pound, because you know exactly what you’re paying for and customers will have an easier time comparing between different prices. When you purchase by gross weight, the price may look cheaper per pound, but many people don’t actually realize that the ice and packaging is also part of that weight. In the end, we want to ensure the customers gets exactly what they paid for.
How do you go about being a more sustainable business?
[S] We really started to focus on sustainability in 2009. Back then, especially in Toronto, nobody even knew what sustainable seafood was. So to start, we were simply just defining what sustainable seafood was and how it's a more environmentally friendly choice when sourcing seafood. Putting a focus on sustainability is huge for our business to ensure that the long-term viability of the seafood industry is strong. At the time, Ocean Wise, SeaChoice and MSC were just getting started in North America. So we decided to partner with those three first. We wanted to work with actual Canadian companies. We took a deep look at our current product list to better understand what was sustainable and what wasn’t and if they weren't’ we worked on finding sustainable options. In the Toronto market specifically, I would confidently say that we are the leader in sustainable seafood. Today, we can say that 72% of our catalogue is considered sustainable with a minimum rating of BAP (Best Agricultural Practices) or higher.
In 2013, we founded the Sea Pact with 5 other seafood distributors in North America. Sea Pact was the first type of seafood alliance in the world. We’ve been donating a lot of resources (expertise, time and money), so that we could improve fisheries and aquaculture projects. We’re the only business in Eastern Canada that’s doing anything like this. We moved from looking at quality, freshness and price to focusing on all of those things, but also sustainability. It has become part of our core values in our business.
[M] The key thing too is trying to show chefs that it's actually easy to become sustainable. It’s not an added cost most of the time and it’s very doable. We’re trying to show people that they have options that won’t break the bank or disrupt their business.
How does Seacore ensure that their products are up to food safety standards?
[S] We’re federally registered, which is voluntary. We’re also HACCP certified and also BRC certified, which is the highest standard for food safety right now. That means that we have an independent audit done every year. Outside of the certifications, we’re extremely picky with what suppliers we work with. We will only work with reputable, quality-focused companies. We want to make sure that food safety is never something that our customers will have to worry about from our end.
You partner with companies like Ocean Wise; How do you go about selecting those partnerships?
[S] We’re big on innovation. We feel like bringing on partners that push Seacore’s growth and trajectory in the right direction that gives us a competitive advantage. So just like working with ChefHero or other digital platforms that restaurants can use, it helps us grow our business. We also partner with actual seafood farms to get exclusive rights to their products and that also gives us another competitive advantage. When we evaluate partnerships, first and foremost we look at the quality of that company and also whether or not their values align with ours.
[M] I always joke that our website is the Wikipedia of seafood; you can utilize it as is exactly that because it’s so detailed. In my past life I used the website and as an education tool to educate myself and the customers that I was working with. Our partnerships also focus a lot on that education piece. We want to not only be at the forefront of educating on specific products, but also to educate on what’s right in terms of sustainability as well. That’s something we look for in our partners.
Why did you choose to partner with ChefHero?
[S] Like I said, we’re big on technology and innovation. When I first saw the platform, I thought that it would be a really useful tool for restaurants. Adding to that level of service we want to continue to provide to our customers, the partnership just made sense. ChefHero’s platform allows restaurants to get better control of their purchasing and their teams, especially when they have multiple locations. We saw the value in the platform and so it was a no brainer to partner with you.
Interested in ordering with Seacore? Let us know and we’ll walk you through their amazing offerings and the ChefHero platform.