Apr 23, 2014

True World Group promotes Shining Ocean president to helm

True World Group
Jeanine Stewart
Undercurrent News
April 23, 2014

US seafood conglomerate True World Group has promoted Robert Bleu to president, up from president of its surimi supplier subsidiary Shining Ocean, on April 1.

Bleu will now oversea the entire True World Group, a New Jersey-based company whose major business interests include fresh seafood wholesale, oriental retail, restaurants and fishing boat manufacturing.

The major subsidiary is True World Foods, which is one of -- if not the -- largest fish supplier to the US sushi sector. True World Foods has 23 subsidiaries throughout the US, four in Canada and is thought to have turnover of over $500 million. It also has branches in the UK, Japan, South Korea and Spain.

True World was founded by Sun Myung Moon, a Korea-born billionaire, who moved to the US in the early 1970s. Moon, who died in 2012, was most famous for founding the Unification Church.

Undercurrent News has been unable to reach Bleu for comment.

Bleu remains officially connected to Shining Ocean, having been appointed to chairman of its board as part of the transition.

Taking Bleu's place as president of Shining Ocean is Tracey Schwartz, who was promoted on April 1, after a rapid rise up the ranks of the company, which sells surimi under the brand Kanimi.

Shwartz was Shining Ocean’s controller – the highest accounting position at the company – until November, when she was promoted to vice president, she told Under, current News.

Schwartz plans to look at the company’s opportunities in Pacific whiting surimi and its opportunities for expansion in Mexico, although both options are still in the exploration phase.

Pacific whiting, or hake, is expected to be in more plentiful supply this year due to a high quota.

Shining Ocean uses both pollock and Pacific whiting surimi in its surimi seafood, which it sells – in equal parts – to retail, foodservice and surimi salad processors for distribution to delis and other outlets.

Hake is generally considered one grade lower than pollock, but Schwartz notes that quality can vary.

“It just depends upon the individual hake that you’re looking at,” she said. “Because they can be different – you can get hake with excellent gel strength and can perform at a different level than a different hake, so you really have to take it one by one and decide where you can best use it in your products.”

Although the Sumner, Washington-based company has no foothold overseas and no plans for expansion there, Schwartz said it is in the process of exploring opportunities for expansion in Mexico, where it already has a foothold in addition to its sales into the US and Canada.

“We don’t have anything firm at this point, but we’re always looking,” she said.

Latin America in general makes good business sense due to its close proximity to the United States and the untapped market potential, she added.

Asia and Europe -- although both have well established surimi markets -- are far away with big shipping costs, and “that’s a big factor", Schwartz said.

Like all surimi suppliers, Shining Ocean is facing a possible shortfall in supply this year, as the global surimi supply could decline by 50,000t or more due to a lack of tropical surimi and the lack of rolled over inventories on the back of last year's low production.

Shining Ocean has not experienced any lack of supply yet, but Schwartz plans to watch the supply situation, which she says is an ongoing challenge, closely. Although the company does not use any tropical surimi, the lack of tropical surimi available worldwide could effect the general market for surimi base.

Shwartz’s background before 2006 was in accounting for distribution companies and manufacturers, and she became attracted to seafood in part for a love of the manufacturing environment.

Contact the author jeanine.stewart@undercurrentnews.com


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