What was your background before NAI-BSI? What types of seafood businesses?

I started working on the plant floor at Turner Fisheries in Boston at age 14 producing reusable gel ice packs, and spent my high school and college Summers working there. I was a Union member and learned every aspect of fresh processing, shipping and receiving. After college, I bought a small processing business that had a breading and batter line on the Gloucester waterfront, which developed into a fairly large and progressive value-added business over the next 27 years.

How would you describe the change you’ve seen in the NAI-BSI business model?

It has been radical. We were a fresh processor with frozen component three years ago, processing and selling mostly North Atlantic species. Today we are 100% frozen and selling products primarily produced and imported out of Indonesia. The consistent theme has been selling and marketing credentialed products: food safety certified with sustainability efforts. We have recently added a traceability and a social responsibility component to our sourcing, which I believe puts us, once again, ahead of important industry trends.

Why did NAI decide to focus on Indonesia in its transition?

Indonesia has some of the most prolific fisheries in the world. Jerry identified this early on in his plans to transition out of the northeast. Three oceans collide in and around the archipelago creating an incredibly vibrant ecosystem. He also saw an opportunity to impact the local industry by bringing food safety knowledge and direct experience with sustainability challenges hard earned in the Gulf of Maine. It has turned out to be a very good decision. The new Indonesian Fisheries Minister, Ibu Susi, has been at the forefront of aggressively combating IUU fishing and supporting fisheries management since taking office.

What was the steepest learning curve you faced in coming over to a new business?

Understanding the market for commodity warm water species (Snapper, Mahi, Tuna, Swordfish and Grouper). My background was North Atlantic fresh fish, and cold water, value-added frozen fish, so it was interesting and exciting to have a new market segment to know and understand.

What are the primary differences in the sales cycle?

Sales cycles in fresh are measured in hours and days, sales cycles in frozen value-added are measured in days and weeks, sales cycles in imported warm water commodity products are measured in months. This has been a major challenge to understand and incorporate into my personal and professional expectations.

How has this transition changed your understanding of inventory management?

The principles of inventory management remain constant, however, the ability to manage the process in a timely manner is more challenging. A lot can change in a 12 week period between acceptance of a Purchase Order and its subsequent delivery. Layer on changing commodity market conditions and the logistics of shipping product from a developing nation exactly half way across the world, and you have many variables at play. It’s been an education.

What have been the keys to success in coordinating with the Bali office?

Skype and, more recently, Whatsapp! Direct communication is critical. As effective as email is at communicating information, it is equally challenging in expressing nuanced thoughts and concepts. It is not easy being headquartered in a time zone 12 hours removed. We work hard to schedule regular verbal meetings between our managers on both sides.

What sets the pivoted NAI-BSI business apart in the frozen import market?

Boots on the ground, food safety, sustainability efforts, traceability (pilots under way) and, very recently, social responsibility. Our social impact investor partner, Aviahkaar, has two guiding Principals: their investments must either employ impoverished peoples or provide goods and services at prices impoverished people can afford. Our project on the Indonesian island Sumbawa involves employment, training, services and fisheries management. The end result will be excellent properly managed and harvested fish products processed at the source. The project will ultimately raise the standard of living on the island; all while providing valuable, needed high-end protein to our North American market.

Interested in learning more about our products or programs?

Feel free to reach out directly (207 774 6025) or send us an email at info@northatlanticseafood.com.