Sidney Azambuja, former director of strategic sourcing at Thai Union-owned Red Lobster, the largest seafood restaurant chain in the United States, has joined Cooke-owned Boston-based seafood distributor Slade Gorton as its new senior director of strategic sourcing and procurement.

In his new role, Azambuja will oversee the company's global sourcing team, Slade Gorton CEO Kim Gorton told IntraFish.

“We are thrilled to have someone of Sidney’s caliber and experience join our talented and growing team," said Gorton.

In January, Joe Zhou, who spent nearly 30 years in purchasing and procurement for Red Lobster, also joined Slade Gorton. Zhou is serving as the company's executive vice president of supply chain.

Azambuja left Red Lobster in June, where he had been in purchasing with the group since 2013. He began at the restaurant chain as manager of seafood procurement when the chain was owned by Darden. He moved up to senior strategic sourcing manager when Golden Gate Capital bought the chain in July 2014.

In October, he was promoted to director of strategic sourcing.

Thai Union acquired a 25 percent stake in Red Lobster, the world's largest seafood restaurant chain with over 700 locations, in 2016 for $575 million (€589 million). In 2020, the company joined with a group of investors to acquire the remaining stake from private equity group Golden Gate Capital.

Azambuja began his career in seafood with King & Prince Seafood, where he was senior purchasing manager for 10 years.

In March, Canada-based seafood group Cooke acquired Slade Gorton, one of the largest US distributors, importers, and manufacturers of fresh and frozen seafood, in one of the largest deals so far in 2023.

The acquisition gives Cooke access to Slade Gorton's more than 800 premium seafood product lines and a company that maintains long-standing partnerships with hundreds of leading North American foodservice and retail customers.

“We will build on the expertise, innovation, and deep commitment to its customers’ success that Slade Gorton is so well-respected for," Cooke CEO Glenn Cooke said at the time of the acquisition.

Slade Gorton will continue to be led by CEO Kim Gorton and her brother Mike Gorton Jr., the company's executive vice president of business development, both of whom are fifth generation family members.

Red Lobster is in the midst of a turnaround. The seafood restaurant earlier this year brought in Paul Kenny, former CEO of Asia-Pacific restaurant chain giant Minor Food, to temporarily assume control at Red Lobster.

Despite the chain's problems, Bualuang Securities equity research analyst Prasit Sujiravorakol is optimistic that the group will be able to turn around the chain's performance.

"The next 12 months should see Red Lobster's operations improve," he told IntraFish in November, adding that the company plans on reducing losses by the beginning of next year, and reach full-year profitability in 2024.

To do this, the company has adopted a four-pronged strategy: driving guest count and sales traffic, driving profitability and lowering costs of sales, improving operational efficiency and execution, and leveraging digital channels.