How “The Fish Amazon” Digitizes America’s Largest Fish Market

The narrative of companies bringing their business into the 21st century may be fraught with hyperbole, but for New York’s Fulton Fish Market, which was founded in 1822, it’s anything but.

As the largest and second oldest fish market in the country, Fulton Fish Market was quietly brought into the digital age by a private startup that has invested millions in securing an exclusive deal to sell fish from the historic online marketplace through partnerships with Walmart’s, Boxed and Goldbelly food delivery platform, among others.

Thanks to the support of several prominent families, including the billionaire Tisch family,, even gives rural Americans access to freshly caught fish at a nearly 200-year-old market, and delivers dock-to-door delivery in just hours.

“We’re an information company, we’re not really a fishing company,” CEO Mike Spindler told Yahoo Finance in the 400,000 square foot market. “We happen to sell fish, so we had to create systems, data and all the other things that were necessary to try to figure out how to move fresh produce for the first time, from here to Kansas City and get it there.” arrive the same day. in the same condition it came out of the water.

Mike Spindler, CEO of

This process technically begins even before a customer places an order. It all started at 10 p.m. ET the day before, when a consortium of family-owned businesses established for generations unloads about 500 varieties of fish and seafood at 20 loading docks in the Bronx. Every day, nearly 2 million pounds of fresh seafood can be purchased by international buyers, restaurant chains and now individuals across the country.

As orders come in, the suppliers of have the first choice to catch everything from fresh swordfish and tuna to more exotic varieties of fluke and sea bass. Due to an exclusive deal negotiated with New York City, the startup will be the only company allowed to sell Fulton Fish Market products online for the next 25 years.

“They pick the product where it looks the best, we secure the product, transport it to our store, and turn it from what is actually a 3,000 year old business into an Amazon warehouse,” Spindler said. .

Since the US market is home to some of the strictest fishing regulations in the world, national catch information allows Fulton Fish Market to track an incredible amount of detail.

“We might know the boat if we choose to go that far and we do sometimes,” Spindler said. “We know how it was caught, when it was caught. We know the quota on which it was fished.

As CFO Andrew Crown explains, this is a powerful selling point for consumers looking to be absolutely sure that they are getting a product from sustainable sources. A study by the fisheries ecologist group Oceana found that nearly 20% of seafood tested across the country was mislabeled.

Andrew Crown, CFO of Chief Financial Officer Andrew Crown

“The average piece of seafood in this country touches hands five to 15 times from dock to door,” he says. “Most of the time, grocery stores buy products from national or local distributors who buy them from other national or local distributors… how many steps we go through in this very archaic supply chain. “

Not really cheap, but it’s “fresh seafood”

How well the company is able to compete on price is a bit of a relative question. Prices for a portioned, plastic-wrapped serving of salmon can range from $ 10 to $ 40 per pound, depending on the catch. For example, the cheapest variety, a pound of fresh wild-caught sockeye salmon costs $ 20 before a flat shipping charge of $ 15 compared to Amazon Whole Foods’ price of $ 17.99. Fulton Fish Market, however, notes that its product comes fresh and never frozen.

This is an important distinction for partners like online wholesaler Boxed, which previously was unable to offer customers fresh fish. Head of Seafood Quality Bobby DiGregorio Director of Seafood Quality Bobby DiGregorio

“Fresh seafood is a smaller category than most of our other categories, but we are finding that it generates higher baskets for our loyal Boxed customers… and satisfies white space that we are unable to provide. within our current network, ”a spokesperson told Yahoo. Finance. “While the prices are prohibitive for some people today, the more we are able to partner with their team to make improvements in this space, the more we can reduce costs to broaden the appeal to more customers. “

Similar thinking from other online retail partners has made Fulton’s digital partnerships its fastest growing segment, although restaurant purchases still account for around 80% of total sales. Spindler says the company’s revenue, which is expected to exceed $ 10 million this year, continues to double each year.

“It’s a fast growing business because people need fresh seafood,” he said, referring his new customers through partnerships with sites like Boxed.

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, startups and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on twitter @zGuz.

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