By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror
PIONEERING seafood importer and distributor Mida Food Distributors sees higher sales this year on the back of increased demand for frozen seafood products and consumer trends toward healthier eating.
Mida President and CEO Enrique Valles told the BusinessMirror that “our topline growth [for 2017] is 20 percent year-on-year”.
He added the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) agreements that lower the tariffs on a multitude of products have enabled the company to bring in more seafood to the country. “Afta has helped ease the process of importing and delivering [products] to our customers at better prices,” he said.
He added Mida “supplies all five-star hotels and white-linen restaurants in the Metro, as well as grilleries, fast-food chains and stand-alones. Our client list is varied because we offer products that accommodate differing client needs. We have the capability to produce bespoke products to match client requirements.
We believe in personalized service and have dedicated account managers and business development managers to handle our clients needs.”
Among the fast-food establishments the company supplies are Shakey’s (scallops for its scallops pizza), Tokyo Tokyo (shrimps for ebi tempura) and Wendy’s (fish for fish fillet burger), to name a few.
Valles said most of their products are imported, “although we buy local shrimp and tuna as much as possible, depending on the season and price”.
Mida celebrated its 20th anniversary as a leader in the Philippines seafood business by hosting a special lunch for media at Gallery Vask in Taguig City, showcasing the company’s various product lines and its growth through the years.
The company started off as a distributor of tuna products, but the business soon expanded, offering premium seafood items including Chilean seabass and salmon, as well as soft-shell crab, lobster, shrimp, squid, octopus, bacalao, halibut, dory, scallops, mussels and more. It now retails these in major supermarkets under the Pacific Bay brand.
Valles admits, though, that the company’s biggest challenge is meeting the expectations of its clients for high-quality seafood at value price points. “Our biggest challenge moving forward is, as our customer base grows as well as the food industry in general, diners look for greater value on the menu and, in exchange, our customers demand for better pricing. The balance of being able to provide these additional discounts, managing cashflow and being able to supply greater volumes to offset gross margin decline is the key to our success,” he stressed.
Mida has also been instrumental in reviving the local aquaculture industry, considering the prawns industry had already declined from its high-growth years in the 1980s and 1990s. The Philippines used to be among the top exporters of prawns to the world, however, negligent and unsanitary culture activities led to the near-death of the industry.
“As volumes [of demand for shrimp] grew, we started legislating for the ban on vannamei shrimp [white shrimp] to be lifted,” Valles noted. The Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources had suspended the importation of live species of the vannamei in 2013 to protect the local shrimp industry from being infected with a virus that had affected the shrimp industries of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, China and Indonesia.
“Lifting the ban on importation of the vannamei shrimp, and its subsequent culture would help grow the aquaculture industry. We won this case in the end,” he said.
In fact, the local culture of vannamei shrimp has been successful that the Philippines now exports over 60 50-foot container vans of vannamei shrimp every month. The Mida official also said the growth of the company could also be attributed to its close collaboration with its clients. Its services include menu development, customization of products, as well as training on food safety, among others. “Through research and development, as well as client intimacy, we’ve gained a reputation in the market as a seafood expert,” he said.