The Fish Society has set its focus on future proofing their operations and business strategy, which will improve the customer experience, optimise operational efficiency and make the business more sustainable.
Here’s part two of our chat with Jeremy Grieve (CEO), Alistair Blair (Founder) and Ben Pritchard (Ecommerce Manager) about their focus on sustainability and operational efficiency. If you want to know more about their customer initiatives, new product ranges (like the signature Fish Society pie) and TikTok channel, please read part one.
What impact did Covid have on how you run your business?
The last year has been busy. Covid brought through more customers and demand, which spiked in March of 2020 and we realised quickly that we were headed in a new direction. One of the first areas we had to focus on was expanding into a larger physical space because of the amount of product that we needed to ship, as the level of sales was higher than what we could do at that stage. This resulted in us moving buildings, which was a big step for us. The new office allows us to feel a bit more comfortable and allows for more people to work on site, while adhering to Covid measures.
What the pandemic did, overall, was turn our whole operation upside down due with no fresh product coming in during the early days, making long-term planning impossible with everything on hold. We focused on fulfilling orders and that was pretty much it for a couple of months. On the operations side, it was very much focused on building new processes and new workflows to try and be more efficient, try and scale up the production and the whole team and be able to handle that volume. That was very much my challenge. I think, over the last year and a half, we've changed a lot of our processes, but on the other hand, we're now trading at a much higher level and have increased our efficiency...and everything's running smoothly.
How are you improving sustainability and operational efficiency?
Jeremy & Ben:
One of the most significant changes that the business will see will happen in August...we will move to a fully recyclable insulated box solution. There's been a lot of strides in packaging, but no one has really cracked the code for frozen products. We probably went through about seven companies or so and reviewed all the samples thoroughly. We finally found one that works for us and we've started the production on the new packaging. This box is fully curbside recyclable. It does cost more and to be honest, it's a cost we're willing to eat because it will help customer retention, allow us to rebrand the current packaging, and it’s sustainable and will help the environment. We have fully designed and branded the box with nice messaging - it looks really cool. I also do think playing into that customer retention comment that we should see an uptick in return and repeat customers if they can recycle that box versus them getting an ugly polystyrene box and asking themselves what to do with it afterwards.
You look at some of our reviews as well, and a lot of them are four out of five stars, and they might say “great, love the fish, but I'm just not too keen on the packaging”. We've also changed our product labeling, which is much nicer with icons and everything. In addition to this, all the product labels have barcodes on them now, it doesn't sound like a really exciting thing, but a lot of work has gone into this and one of the great positives there is that orders now get scanned before they go out, significantly reducing error on customer orders. We're getting it right the first time around because it was quite easy to make a mistake beforehand. As the team grows, these small differences have a strong impact and the barcode system ensures we are consistently doing the right thing for the customers and their orders.
I built the whole system from scratch, so now we have a bespoke system in house, which was a challenge to build, but it's also actually increased the speed of us packing as well. It’s faster and more accurate.
Sustainability is a very big issue for us. As of January 2021, we pledged to donate five percent of profits to marine sustainability. We believe this pledge is unique amongst seafood companies. Three months later this topic became headline news following the Seaspiracy documentary on Netflix.
Over the next year, we will review the sustainability of each fish we sell and if we can’t satisfy ourselves about their long term future, they will be dropped from our range. We’ll track our progress on a specific sustainability blog and we’ll add a sustainability rating to every product page. The first casualty was eel. Although widely available and very popular, eel is in fact critically endangered and this wasn’t the first time we had considered whether we should be selling it. This time, the answer was obvious. When our current stocks are gone, we’ll stop selling them.
So far, we have directed our sustainability donations to the Blue Marine Foundation and the National Lobster Hatchery. We are working on our long-term sustainability goals, ecommerce and operational efficiency and seeing very good results. Sustainability of course also crucially covers packaging. We have good news here, as Jeremy and Ben mentioned: After two years of research, in 2021 we will make a big inroad on the packaging issue by consigning polystyrene to the past.
Closing Remarks: The Fish Society have made sustainability a priority of their business, as well as focusing on improving the customer experience. Have a look at the case study for a deep dive into the ecommerce setup and successes.