It was a quintessentially Maritime treat that led Fisherman’s Market to its first export sale. Shortly after the company was founded in 1948, Fred Greene got a call from an American woman who had a goitre and, to control it, she wanted dulse, a purple seaweed delicacy that’s high in iodine, shipped to her on a weekly basis.
After they’d been doing that for a while, she wrote to say she hadn’t received her shipment. “About a month later, I got a letter from U.S. customs stating they’d analyzed the product and said that while they had no idea what it was, they determined it had 89 different items in it, including arsenic,” recalls Greene, who is the company’s president. “It was a crazy list. They told us ‘In the future, do not ship it again.’ I thought it was a real riot, but that’s the last time we shipped it. The demand was also waning because supplements were on the rise.”
Although its local business — reselling the seafood caught in the waters around Nova Scotia — was good, that customs incident didn’t deter the company from seeking customers in foreign markets. In the beginning, they also sent smoked salmon from J. Willy Krauch Smokehouse to an Alabama restaurant that ordered it every two weeks for a time. Later, in the mid-1960s, Germany would catch on — so to speak — to Maritime lobster and a German reseller became the company’s first European customer.
Today, Fisherman’s Market International Inc. boasts customers on every continent, an employee roster of 200 at its seven locations throughout Nova Scotia and it was just named one of Canada’s top-50 best-managed companies by Deloitte and CIBC .
“We have strived to be leaders in our industry, always raising the bar to reach goals and be the best we can in terms of relationships with our fishers, suppliers, customers and employees,” said general manager Monte Snow. “We are dedicated to food safety and are one of only two or three seafood companies in Atlantic Canada that are accredited with the designation of SQF “Safe Quality Food,” which is a standard that is recognized worldwide. Canada’s best-managed companies are judged on their structure, professionalism, growth, innovation and the strength of their senior management and the whole team. I guess we made the grade.”
The company also owns a vessel and is a primary producer, processor and exporter of all Canadian seafood, though live lobster is by far its most popular export. It also imports seafood for its distribution business and operates a retail store.
Asia has become a strong market over the past decade. “If you look at the globe, rather than where you live or your place of business is, you have effectively increased your potential market astronomically,” Snow said.
The company has accessed the services of Export Development Canada (EDC) for accounts receivable insurance. In addition to the help with financing, EDC’s seal of approval on a new export client also gives them peace of mind.
“EDC has been helpful,” Snow said. “We’ve found them to be competitive and reasonable and they’ve assisted us at times to help grow our sales.”
Don Robertson, Senior Account Manager at EDC, said the organization was happy to help.
“Our accounts receivable insurance has enabled them to reach out and procure new customers in new markets by minimizing the risk of potential loss while they have done this outreach,” Robertson said. “Accounts receivable insurance was what they needed. The company is well funded and well managed.”