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Pacifico moves into Whole Foods, Disney following PE acquisition

The Mexican bass producer has found its way into Whole Foods nearly a year after Butterfly's investment.

Baja California-based Mexican striped bass producer Pacifico has been working to scale its product and expand its retail footprint since Los Angeles-based private equity firm Butterfly invested in the company nearly a year ago.

In that short time span, the company has invested in everything from production to sales to marketing, and has been featured in Whole Foods, Walt Disney World Resorts and on menus of some of the country's most high-profile chefs.

"The result of all of this effort is a beautiful farmed fish that has landed on some of the most influential plates in Mexico and the United States," Daniel Farag, co-CEO of Pacifico told IntraFish. "Rick Bayless from Chicago, Thomas Keller from the Napa Valley and Niki Nakayama from Los Angeles all have Pacifico on their menus."

More demand, more supply

The company ramped up production levels over the course of the year as well. Omar Alfi, co-CEO of Pacifico, told IntraFish the company's 2016 year class of fish is just starting to come out of the water, which will allow the company to triple its current volume within the next couple of months. He expects that growth rate to increase through 2019, but declined to disclose the volume of fish Pacific is currently producing.

A new partnership with California-based Prime Time Seafood should help Pacifico move the additional volume, Alfi said.

"We are in a position now where we can offer more support to our existing customers to help them grow, and we have the ability to onboard exponentially more new business," Alfi said.

"The East Coast is an untapped market for us, for no other reason than just not having the capacity until now," he said. "We are particularly excited about the East Coast because there is already such a built in market for striped bass."

Pacifico has also branched out in the retail world, where the company said whole fillets of its ocean-raised sea bass are now sold nationally through Whole Foods. Prior to this year, Pacifico largely sold its product through California-based Santa Monica Seafood, Jennifer Bushman, Pacifico's new marketing hire, told IntraFish.

The company is continuing to work with Colorado-based Seattle Fish Company to reach the US mountain states and with Supreme Lobster for growth in the Midwest, she said.

The happiest contract on earth

Florida is another market where Pacifico hopes to grow, Bushman said, which is one of the reasons it partnered with Disney to be featured this year at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival in Walt Disney World Resort. The bass is a part of the festival's "Sunday Brunch with a Chef" series that features culinary celebrities.

Pam Smith, a national culinary consultant who is hosting this year's festival at Epcot, told IntraFish she became convinced Pacifico's striped sea bass was a fit for the festival following a tour of the company's scenic offshore farm site earlier this year.

She said the fish checked the two boxes Disney requires for its menu: it tastes good and it's sustainable.

"Disney, like so many companies with corporate social responsibility goals, is focused on sustainability. But we don’t want to sacrifice the taste experience just to put a checkmark by 'yes it's sustainable,'" she said.

Scalability is another key for Disney and other major foodservice and restaurant chains, Smith noted.

"That’s what large-volume foodservice, like Darden, Bloomin' Brands, and other contract foodservice companies are looking for. They want foods that are telling the right story and that are deliciousness. But they also need a consistency of supply," she said.

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