More than 15 years ago, father and son Abby and Shahin Mobine launched PureFish to sell sustainably produced seafood to restaurants. The San Diego company grew steadily – until Covid-19 hit and devastated the market. So they decided to accelerate the plans already in the works to create a direct-to-consumer business, also known as PureFish, to address the pandemic-sparked consumer hug to buy online seafood online and join several wholesalers, who started such a company to make the most of switches during the pandemic.
This involved a considerable effort between soup and nut – from developing environmentally friendly packaging to setting up an in-house facility for cutting, packaging and shipping. The company introduced the product last week.
“Over the years we’ve postponed our plans because we thought people wouldn’t be ready to order seafood online,” said Shahin Mobine, the company’s president. “When the pandemic hit, we realized we had to accelerate our plans. The opportunity was now. ”
Do the right thing
The idea for the first PureFish came from the family’s experience with Intex, their import-export business. The Mobines used their contacts to help a group of sustainable shrimp fishermen move from selling their catch to a large company to direct sales.
This experience taught a lesson in the economics of seafood distribution. Fishermen who “do the right thing,” as Mobine puts it, have generally not been able to get the prices they deserve by selling high quality, sustainable fish. So the Mobines decided to start a company aimed directly at restaurant chefs, telling the stories of individual fish farmers and fishermen and how they do things differently.
It took me about four years to travel the world to find the little fishermen they liked. At the same time, they met with individual chefs, showed them their fish and explained their story. In order to make the process as seamless as possible, as many actors as possible are cut out of the multiple supply chain layers normally required. Over time, the company grew steadily, especially as the interest in sustainability increased. It now sells to restaurants across the country.
time to go
Then the pandemic hit and suddenly demand collapsed. “All of our restaurant customers are affected by the pandemic,” says Mobine. The company’s earnings “were severely affected,” he says.
It wasn’t long before Mobine realized he needed to make some big changes quickly. So he re-examined the plans that had been in the works since around 2016 to develop a direct-to-consumer line. “We have always said let’s wait a little longer. We’re a small company,” he says. “But the pandemic has made people more comfortable ordering food online.” It was time to take the step.
Mobine had developed the basic pieces of the puzzle for the new system, such as the design for new packaging. In order to achieve this, however, almost the entire infrastructure had to be built. The idea was to do everything in-house, from collecting the fish right after it was caught, to cutting and packing it at a facility in San Deigo. The company also hired two more fishermen, adding them to the ten fishermen regularly used for restaurant sales.
No handling required
Each $ 250 shipment contains eight trays of two 6-ounce pre-cut servings of fish that can be dumped in the oven. The concept arose in part from conversations with Mobine’s mother. “She told us that she loved to cook fish but hated handling it,” he says. That led to the idea of selling fish that had already been cut and ready to cook without any handling involved. Customers choose one of three options. For example, the Omega Box contains locally caught fish like black cod and saltwater-stripped bass, and aqua seafood like salmon, while the Rainbow Box contains fish that are commonly used in sushi, among other things.
The packaging uses recycled and upcycled materials, as well as what Mobine describes as “breathable film that is much safer for the consumer”. For every box sold, the company donates to a nonprofit ocean cleaning organization. While he doesn’t talk about the exact amount the company spent on development, “we invested heavily in packaging,” says Mobine. They funded the effort internally.