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Spanish seafood supplier pulls out of Amazon, Ulabox deals

Sustainability and packaging waste at the core of the issue with supplying the e-commerce giants.

Spanish group Scanfisk pulled out of its e-commerce supply deal with online behemoth Amazon UK and Spain's online retailer Ulabox for the supply of products under its Mr. Fisk brand, said Jorge Alonso, chief marketing officer at the firm.

Speaking to IntraFish at the Conxemar 2017 show in Vigo, Spain, Alonso said the company had the opportunity to introduce its products to Amazon USA -- but stepped away from the deal altogether, pulling all its products from the online retailers.

The reason? The environmental footprint of doing business online. "There's one big issue with online retail and that's packaging waste," Alonso said, highlighting "secondary packaging" in particular.

Consumers usually order small portions of the Mr. Fisk products, and any other fresh items, online. However, each pack comes in an extra carton as well as in bubble wrap, which Alonso called "not environmentally economical."

"We're faced with the twofold issue of wanting to do the right thing [for the environment] and of selling products to run a profitable business," he said.

In the end, the benefits of supplying Amazon and Ulabox -- deals both closed earlier this year -- weren't big enough.

Sustainable packaging R&D

Scanfisk, which had a turnover of €52 million ($61.1 million) in 2016, is looking to advance its own research into producing biodegradable, sustainable packaging.

Ideas such as packaging films made of fish skins are already floating around, but there are a number of projects to look at, Alonso said.

Within two to three years he wants to see real progress for Scanfisk in this area, and hopes selling biodegradable packaging will become another business leg for the firm.

"We realize that we're a small company and that we can't compete with big producers of packaging but we want to do our part," Alonso said.

"The thought of selling 50,000 trays to Aldi in Switzerland [one of the group's customers] makes me happy from a business point of view. But at the same time, it's sad because it's 50,000 plastic trays I'm putting out there," he told IntraFish.

The UltraFish project

Biodegradable packaging is only one area of research the company is currently working on.

It recently plowed €300,000 ($352,847) into funding initial research at a Spanish university which has the aim of improving processes related to handling and processing of fishery products by applying a technique based on the use of ultrasound to eliminate chemical additives for microbial inactivation.

The now launched UltraFish project, which is also backed by the European Union with funding of €1.5 million ($1.76 million), is now being implemented at the Scanfisk factory in Zaragoza at different water-based stages to reduce the processing times and water waste.

Alonso hopes it will eventually result in extended shelf life for its products, lower water consumption and lower power consumption during the processing stage.

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