More than one billion people worldwide depend on fish as their primary source of protein. But our love affair with seafood has led to overfishing and put a strain on the fragile marine ecosystem. Today, it is estimated that 80 percent of fish stocks worldwide are fully to overly exploited or depleted, according to the United Nations.
Along with the harmful environmental effects, poor management of the global marine fisheries jeopardizes the food chain and results in economic losses of $50 billion each year.
Motivated to be a different type of seafood company, Fishpeople was founded in 2012 with the goal of delivering sustainable, traceable fish to consumers and foodservice businesses. In order to carry out its mission the Portland, Ore. company has raised $12 million in Series B financing. The round was led by Advantage Capital Agribusiness Partners (ACAP) with participation from 3x5 Partners, S2G Ventures, Encourage Capital, Blueberry Ventures and Collaborative Fund.
Working with independent, small-scale fishermen in Pacific Northwest coastal communities, Fishpeople sources only abundant species of fish. In order to provide consumers greater visibility into the products they are purchasing, Fishpeople provides a code on every package that can be entered into its website to learn where the fish was harvested as well as the fisherman who caught it.
"Transparency has been a cornerstone of our business since its founding," said Ken Plasse, CEO, Fishpeople Seafood. "We know that today's consumer is asking really tough questions and cares deeply about their food."
And customers are asking hard questions for a good reason. Studies have found that seafood is mislabeled at an alarming rate of 25-40 percent of the time.
The ability for customers to trace their fish was what Tyler Mayoras, principal, ACAP, a firm dedicated to funding transformational food and agriculture companies, found "mind-blowing" and led to his investment in Fishpeople. "That was a game changer, and we saw that as something the industry couldn't replicate and would give these guys an advantage for awhile," he said.
At present, Fishpeople offers seafood kits with recipes and ingredients to take the guesswork out of cooking seafood. Its consumer line of products also includes ready-made soups and frozen fish fillets. Recently, the company launched a food services line with flash-frozen and fresh fillets. Current, customers include the meal-kit company, Sun Basket.
Fishpeople consumer products are available in Whole Foods, Safeway, Albertsons, and more than 5,000 natural and conventional grocers nationwide. Its chefs line of solutions is available to restaurants and foodservice operators on the West Coast. The company plans to use this latest round of funding to expand distribution of its consumer and foodservice lines as well as innovate around new product formats.
Plasse hopes that through its products Fishpeople can "honor the pride and quality" the fishermen have put into their work. "In other food industries the farmer and chef has become elevated in consumers' mind, and fishermen deserve that type of respect," he said.