(this appeared on the Seafoodnews.com website on Monday) SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - July 6, 2009 - Trader Joe's has had one of the best run and innovative seafood programs for many years. They have pioneered a custom-pack frozen display that consistently offers a variety of frozen fillets and steaks - often featuring products like Alaskan cod and salmon, as well as other items like snapper, mahi mahi, and frozen shrimp.
True to its philosophy of buying when deals are available, Trader Joe's does not attempt to consistently keep certain species in stock, but rotates through a range of seafood items. The variety makes their frozen seafood case a good stop for heavy seafood users, and because of its emphasis on frozen and frozen at sea product, it is unique among retailers. Most other banners emphasize their fresh fish counters or tray pack fresh items.
What has flipped out Greenpeace is that Trader Joe's has refused to engage with them over their seafood purchases.
In correspondence dated March 11, 2008 (which Greenpeace says is the most recent and only time Trader Joe's management deigned to discuss the issue of seafood sustainability with Greenpeace), Jon Basalone, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Trader Joe's, stated "We simply listen to our customers", when refusing to participate in Greenpeace's survey of American retailers.
This attitude has provoked fury. First, Greenpeace has built a web site, called Traitor Joe's, to argue that the company is a poor environmental steward. What Greenpeace cannot abide is that for most customers, Trader Joe's has a strong environmental approach that includes copious labeling and lots of organics.
Greenpeace says of Trader Joe's customer first approach "This view is antithetical to the basic tenets of Corporate Social Responsibility - to take social, environmental, and political concerns into account when doing business - and runs counter to consumer preference and marketing trends toward sustainable products."
In otherwords, unless Trader Joe's buys into the social, environmental, and political concerns of Greenpeace USA, the company is an outlaw. Greenpeace has a nice little skull and cross bones icon on their Traitor Joe web site.
The problem for Greenpeace is not that Trader Joe's might in fact be making a strong statement about corporate responsibility, but that they are not doing it according to Greenpeace's rules.
Greenpeace says that their surveys found Trader Joe's sells 15 of the 22 red list seafoods: Alaskan pollock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, Greenland halibut, monkfish, ocean quahog, orange roughy, red snapper, redfish, South Atlantic albacore tuna, swordfish, tropical shrimp and yellowfin tuna.
What Greenpeace did not find out was how the Trader Joe purchasing model of taking advantage of seasonal opportunities for good seafood when available, is in fact very compatible with sourcing wild products whose abundance and seasonality fluctuates.
The most destructive purchasing practices for seafood are when companies seek to have certain items at any price - for in this way buyers distort the market and drive demand for illegal fishing, assuming that they must have a product to please their customers, even if it is in short supply and at a high price. This had lead to abuses for illegal supplies find a ready market.
More flexible policies, such as providing the customer with a variety of available frozen fish that changes depending on what is in season, what is packed, and how it is priced, is a much more long term sustainable policy than purchasing from a fixed list of items no matter if these items are red or green.
Trader Joe's should take Greenpeace's anger as a badge of honor. It is obvious that seafood is an important part of their vision of customer satisfaction, and that is a long term benefit to the entire seafood industry.
(this appeared on the Seafoodnews.com website on Monday)
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - July 6, 2009 - Trader Joe's has had one of the best run and innovative seafood programs for many years. They have pioneered a custom-pack frozen display that consistently offers a variety of frozen fillets and steaks - often featuring products like Alaskan cod and salmon, as well as other items like snapper, mahi mahi, and frozen shrimp.