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Fishing for customers

Ronnie Wrenn waits patiently for retailers and consumers to catch on to fresh, never frozen case-ready seafood from his company, Fresher Than Fresh, which provides its products in modified-atmosphere packaged overwrapped trays (see www.packworld.com/casestudy-26065)
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FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy
     

PW: Why did you get into the fresh, prepacked seafood business in the first place?
Wrenn: The idea behind FTF was to create a company that would provide our customers a verifiable solution to the “Freshness Question.” Freshness by far is the first consideration the consumer has before purchasing any seafood product. Freshness far outweighs price. If consumers could buy fresh seafood with the same quality confidence regarding freshness as they do buying chicken or beef, seafood consumption in the U.S. would explode.

PW: What are the biggest hurdles to making that happen?
Wrenn:
There have been two perceptions that have been hardest to overcome. One is the public’s traditional perception that full-service ice counters are the freshest place to buy fish, and the other is that overwrapped fish in the self-service counter­—due to abuses in the past—is not as good or fresh as the fish at the service counter.

PW: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Wrenn: There are a million things we should have done differently. On the production side, I would have designed our facility with more capacity to super-chill our product as it comes off the line.  Our plant expansion will address this. I would have used overwrapping machinery instead of the lidstock machinery we started with. Overwrappers are faster and more efficient in providing a versatility of package sizes and shapes with a better-looking presentation.

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PW: How difficult a sell is case-ready seafood?
Wrenn: It has been a lot harder to sell than I envisioned. Sometimes selling to retailers can be frustrating because a logical solution doesn’t always direct the decision. Changing the way business has been traditionally carried out with a major retail chain is not an easy task.

PW: Any trends working in your favor?
Wrenn: Consumers are increasingly concerned about issues such as food safety, traceability, and sustainability and the environmental impact.  Our package has the credentials to answer these issues.

PW: How hard does your packaging work for consumer education?
Wrenn: Educating the consumer will be key to our success. The performance of our product will eventually build a loyal customer base and increase our sales, something we have seen through steady incremental sales in the stores we are in presently. Our challenge is to convince our customers to proactively promote the benefits of our package to the consumer. It would really take off if we could get them to do this.

PW: How will you know when case-ready seafood has really caught on?
Wrenn: When retailers start calling us!

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