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Pacific Seafood seeing early success with Amazon

Company is seeing success with its king salmon lox line, as well as its fresh oysters and frozen king crab legs through Amazon.

Oregon-based Pacific Seafood largely relies on traditional foodservice and retail channels for the bulk of its sales. But with e-commerce for groceries growing, the company is also considering new channels for distribution.

Michael Chen, the company's marketing manager, told IntraFish he's looking for opportunities that allow for customization, where consumers are given more choice and are active participants in their shopping experience.

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"We're increasingly becoming a more individualized society," he said. "People are more focused on their personal, individual needs."

One way Pacific is tapping into the personalized-shopping trend is through Amazon, according to Chen. He helped Pacific start selling products through the online retail giant shortly after being hired last March.

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The experiment has gone well so far, but sales are small and difficult to measure, he told IntraFish.

"Amazon grocery is new in and of itself. We're co-evolving and figuring out what's working or not," he said of how Pacific Seafood's products are faring on the site.

While the majority of items Pacific lists on Amazon are frozen, its best selling-items are more of a mixed bag, Chen said.

The company is seeing success with its king salmon lox line, as well as with its fresh oysters and frozen king crab legs, he said.

Through the help of K.S. Specialties, a company that works specifically with manufacturers that include Pacific to list and sell products through Amazon, Pacific sells several varieties of smoked lox, fresh Dungeness crab, oysters, frozen poke and frozen smoked scallops on the Internet behemoth.

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Reliable delivery still a challenge

Amazon's seafood category is dominated by frozen and shelf-stable items, but fresh options remain harder to find, despite Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods last year.

Pacific is using a unique approach to address the challenge of shipping fresh seafood to Amazon customers. The company operates its own air freight service, which is key to being able to offer customers fresh options through the site, said Chen.

While Pacific uses Amazon to process and track orders, it uses its air freight service to deliver those products to customers rather than through the Amazon warehouse system, where Chen said seafood has the potential to go bad if it's fresh and sits too long.

Amazon offers businesses the option to handle their own packaging and shipping, or to have Amazon handle the packing, shipping and customer service for them through its fulfillment by Amazon program.

"When I realized we had this great division at Pacific, we have the means to do it in a reliable and safe way, I knew this would be a great way to reach to a new crowd of people," Chen said.

Amazon Fresh remains far from perfect

Despite selling fresh seafood through the online retailer, Pacific, ironically, doesn't list anything through Amazon Fresh. The program, launched in 2016, works with select retail locations to deliver groceries to customers’ doorsteps, including in Oregon where Pacific is based.

"It's not so much we shy away from the fresh, we're still working out the kinks of the process in the system itself before we feel confident about selling [Amazon] fresh," Chen said.

One of the issues with Amazon Fresh for Pacific is the program requires companies to list a definitive weight for products, which Chen said doesn't always work for fresh seafood items. That's because those items are sold based on catch weight, which can change from the time the product is caught until it's stored, he said.

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While Chen sees future growth for Pacific in online sales through Amazon, he remains uncertain whether e-commerce sales will take over more traditional channels anytime soon.

"Amazon has disrupted many industries as of recently," he said. "This is a new venue, whether this makes a huge revolutionary impact on us, I"m not 100 percent sure. I still believe the average consumer prefers to look, smell feel and touch their seafood to purchase it."

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