Chris Maze took over as the new CEO of Pescanova USA at the start of 2019. A little over a year later his finds himself leading his company through unprecedented challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

How is the coronavirus changing your company’s day-to-day operations?

First and foremost, our priority is the safety and health of our people. In light of this pandemic, this has meant a need to rapidly adapt to the situation, both in terms of taking preventative measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, our customers and the communities in which we operate and in terms of activating our business continuity plans, which are designed to help us prepare for and alleviate any impact a crisis like this could have on our business.

This has involved [into] anticipating people’s needs, ensuring protective equipment is available and taking the proper measures specific to each fishery, aquaculture farm and factory in our network.

Meanwhile, we remain firm in our commitment to supplying the communities we serve with healthy and wholesome seafood by continuing our business activities.

On the corporate and local levels, we are protecting our people by temporarily shifting to remote work, thus mitigating any threat of transmission. On the global level, we have implemented additional sanitation practices in our production facilities, including expanding the already constant and continuous disinfection of all facilities, factories and ships; implementing routine testing and temperature measuring of all employees who must continue to commute to our operations sites; suspending all visits to production sites; and various additional measures to ensure social distancing between workers, in addition to continuing to use gloves and face masks.

These measures, which are in line with recommendations from the World Health Organization, are helping protect our employees while we continue to guarantee high-quality products.

As of today, we have not experienced a major disruption in our supply chain or ability to conduct our daily business, in part thanks to our preventative efforts.

Tell us how the coronavirus and the resulting collapse of the US foodservice sector is directly affecting your day-to-day business?

The coronavirus crisis has challenged us to establish new routes to market so as to continue supplying our foodservice customers and retailers.

We are working closely with our partners to help them adapt to this rapidly changing market, as well as follow the evolving precautions and regulations. In the end, we all share a common goal – to ensure that our consumers are getting the food they need, no matter how or where they are shopping.

You just launched a new retail line, which is opportune given what's happened to foodservice. But the pivot to retail was already in the works. What's behind that strategy?

Expanding to retail is part of our strategy for growth and expansion in the US. Since we entered the market in 1998, Pescanova USA has become one of the top 50 seafood commerce companies in the Americas. However, it has historically only sold to other distributors, which limited brand recognition among general consumers.

In refocusing our efforts to grow our retail business, we are paying closer attention to consumer needs and patterns. We aim to transform the seafood service industry through product expertise, as well as logistical and value-added solutions that go beyond product development. This includes innovating around different day-parts and usages, such as balanced meals, shareable products and conveniently prepared protein portions.

Throughout all these changes, we will continue offering what we do best: high-quality, ready-to-eat foods rich in omega-3.

What will be the lasting impact on the seafood industry from the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is perhaps the most disruptive event in our lifetime. It has challenged many aspects of how we do business, and the food industry has been one of the hardest hit.

COVID-19 has impacted everything from crop production to shopping habits. As for seafood, the demand for grocery staples is constantly fluctuating across a complex US supply chain.

Looking forward, I expect the coronavirus pandemic will ultimately strengthen our contingency plans and help us solidify our distribution lines.

After we overcome this situation, we’ll be better prepared with consumer health and food safety protocols, as well as stronger supply chain management that prioritizes traceability and transparency.

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