Wood's Fisheries Traceability Initiative

Wood’s Fisheries has been fishing in the Gulf since the mid-1800s. Since then we have evolved into a premiere producer of Gulf and South Atlantic shrimp. It has been 150 years since our company was founded, but our mission has never changed – to deliver the world tastiest shrimp. We may be one of the oldest shrimp producers in the United States but we consider ourselves one of the most progressive and intuitive producers.

We realize that while taste is the number one concern to consumers, as it is to us, however, there are many other issues to consider to make sure we continue to provide tasty shrimp. Around the office and plant you will hear words like sustainability and traceability in almost every discussion. On the surface those ideas seem self-explanatory and you may find yourself asking “what does that have to do with the flavor and quality?”

From the early years of shrimping the goal of the boats were and are to catch as many shrimp as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. Sustainability practices have been going on just as long as we have been shrimping on a commercial level, there was just not a formal term(s) put to it and it was not under regulation. Sustainability and loading the boats with as many shrimp as possible may seem like they are completely opposite, but in the Gulf and South Atlantic, they go hand in hand.

Shrimp are a very resilient animal. Most species of shrimp have a very short life cycle, just 9-18 months, but during that short life cycle one shrimp can produce over 50,000 eggs. This is why conservation and governmental groups are not concerned with the shrimp stock reduction due to over fishing. However there are many other factors to consider than just over fishing. These items include shrimp habitat both the coastal spawning areas and deeper off shore waters, by-catch, and the socioeconomic impact of the fishery. You can find detailed information on these issues and Wood’s Fisheries response in our Sustainability Commitment.

So what does sustainability have to do traceability?

Traceability in its simplest form is being able to see where the product is being caught and what stores or restaurants it ends up at. However, Wood’s Fisheries sees traceability in a much more detailed way, we believe that you can’t have true sustainability and fishery improvements without traceability.

We require detailed logs both electronic and hand, for all of the issues concerning sustainability. These items are recorded and verified for any customer or end consumer to view. For our customers we are 100% transparent, if you want to know every step in the supply chain it’s at your fingertips. If you would like to know quality information, it’s always available. If you as a buyer want to know how cold the freezer hold on the boat was for the entire fishing trip you can have that on your traceability report.

QR Code scan takes you to the Trace Marketing Module
Figure 1 - QR Code scan takes you to the Trace Marketing Module

For buyers you can get your full Quality Assurance data, Trace Map, Boat, Dock, and shrimp information in a detailed report from Trace Register. The boat information that is available are items such as scientific name, catching county, boat name, catch zone, gear used, trawl time for each drag, By-Catch ratio, time in which it takes shrimp to get from the water to frozen on board, freezing time, brine temperature at time of freezing, brine salinity at time of freezing, frequency in which brine water is changed, and the holding freezer temperature.

 

The trace map will show not only the general area of the catch but specifically where the shrimp you are buying come from. Most boats only record one zone as the catch area when they could have been caught in multiple zones, as they stay out for up to 45 days and can shrimp from North Carolina to the Florida Keys back around to the Texas – Mexico border. They may have 5 species of shrimp on one trip from 15 different catch areas. We require all boats to provide us with detailed logs of each drag. The shrimp are separated by drag using a tag system.

Wood’s Fisheries has partner docks all along the East Coast and in every state on the Gulf Coast. Just like many other shrimp suppliers we buy shrimp from different docks to meet our customer’s needs. The industry standard has been to never let anyone know what boat or dock you are partnering with. We believe in building relationships with not only our customers but also any supplier we may partner with. This relationship develops trust and allows us to show the complete supply chain so our customers can be 100 percent confident in the true origin of the product.

The reports also shows all of our Quality Assurance check points and results for every lot of shrimp. We include data from the RAW material check in, temperature data throughout the IQF process, and the final Quality Control Check Points. These items include: % of black spot (melanosis), % of heat damage, Glaze %, any additives and their levels, % of Freezer Burn, and many other issues pertaining to the quality of the finished product.

For Seafood or Restaurant mangers we provide a QR code on the master carton that will take you to our market module built for mobile devices. This information comes from the same information on the traceability document from Trace Register. The buyer is able to filter what information is shown on the module for the store managers. Each individual store will have a unique QR code that is permanent for them. The manager can then link the master carton QR code to their permanent QR code using an app (IOS, Andriod, or Windows) from trace register. This eliminates the need to change any static clings or signage with every case of shrimp.

The retail ready bags (16 or 32 oz) will have the QR code incorporated into the design in such a way to entice the consumer to scan the bag. The consumer information is fed from the same Trace Register document and can have as little or as much information as the buyer sees fit. Some other items that can be included when the end user traces their product include: recipes, best uses for size and type, species comparison, vessel biography, captain biography, Wood’s Fisheries story, sustainability commitments from the retailer; the items are limitless.

Application

The idea of all of this is great but if one link in the supply chain does not buy in then it’s all for naught.

How do we get everyone to buy in?

Wood’s Fisheries is committed to helping the Gulf and South Atlantic becoming the sustainability bench mark for all fisheries improvement projects. We pay more to the boats who are willing to put in the extra work and who will be transparent with us. This is the first step in becoming a Wood’s Premium Shrimp. If it is in our Wood’s Premium box it is from a FIP participation boat.

We partner with retailers that share the same concern for the fishery as we do. We hope that all of our retailers will join us in the push for a sustainable product. The whole of the sustainability movement is pushed from the consumer level. They are the ones who are asking the seafood workers in the retail markets the questions, who then turn to the buyers, who put the pressure on their suppliers, until that pressure reaches the boats. Now it’s time to give the information to the guys in the market to answer the questions with validated data to back it up. The market workers need to be able to get the consumer to scan the QR code, they need to create excitement around the fact the shrimp are the best and truly all natural.

The information is there and we want to get your mangers and counter people motivated and involved. Below is a list of things that can be done:

  1. QR codes on retail Packaging – Consumers can scan these at the store or at home. It can direct them to the shrimps best uses, flavor profile, and recipes.
  2. Static Cling with QR code on a Freezer Case or on chest freezer signage. The consumer can scan the QR code to help them make the decision on what product to by.
  3. QR code on a board that states “Todays shrimp were caught by the Vessel Patricia Lee of Port St. Joe, FL.
  4. QR code on a fresh case or ice pick signs.
  5. QR codes in ads.

You can put QR codes everywhere, but if they are not scanned then they are not doing their job. How do we get consumers to scan the QR Codes? We create rewards for the scans, such as:

  1. Consumer giveaways – ex. Scan here to trace your shrimp and for your chance to win an all-expense paid vacation to Disney World.
  2. Coupons – ex. Scan here to receive your $1 off coupon on your purchase of Wood’s Wild American Shrimp!
  3. Sales Competitions (Retailer Level) – Retailers can use hits from store specific QR codes and comments left from those consumers to help generate drive from their counter people and managers.
  4. Competitions (Wood’s Fisheries level) – We would love to have our customers and their employees come and tour our processing facility and Farm. Treat them to a day out on the water deep sea fishing or maybe even go out and help a captain haul in the catch and cook the shrimp right on board! Of course it would be impossible to get everyone from every store so we would love to see the same type of competitions as described in the retail level combined with other aspects like display creativity, sales volume, increase in sales volume, etc.
  5. Have a Wood’s Specialist in your stores – We are happy to send a Wood’s Shrimp Expert to your stores for a day or two to do cutting, demos, or simply be there to answer questions about shrimp.

The goal of this initiative is to start a ripple that will go out throughout the Gulf driving all producers and vessels to look at their sustainability practices.

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