Thammachart Seafood has become the go to source for seafood in Thailand whether it be in supermarkets, upscale restaurants or at one of its own food and beverage establishments.
The key to success for the company has been a willingness to evolve with everything from products to processes having changed since launching in 2007. From prawns to oysters and lobsters to squid, in addition to a huge variety of fish, Thammachart Seafood has built its reputation on offering high-quality seafood in the most convenient manner possible. Of all of its products, salmon has been the most in demand.
“One of the most important decisions we have made was selecting salmon as our hero product. It has kept customers engaged and inspired to this day,” Mr Julian G. Davies, Thammachart Seafood Chief Executive Officer, explains. “It is also available all year round and consistent in terms of quality. This is extremely important. You always know you are getting a high-quality product whenever you order salmon.” Quality is something the company values very highly. That is why it only works with sustainable, well-managed fisheries and responsibly farmed aquaculture operations who can guarantee it. This is an area where the salmon industry shines. “The salmon industry has something few other industries have in that it is consolidated. The key players have the financing to invest in new technology which provides the customer with a better product,” Mr Davies states.
Customers in Thailand seemingly can’t get enough high-quality salmon and it remains the best-selling product at Thammachart Seafood. The company imports salmon from across the world, including Norway, with shoppers drawn to its combination of great taste and attractive price. “Everyone is aware of the health benefits and the price point is perfect for Thailand,” Ms Yeeran G. Davies, Thammachart Seafood Chief Marketing Officer, says. “One trend we are now seeing is people infusing salmon into new dishes or creations.” This flexibility is another reason salmon is firmly entrenched as Thammachart Seafood’s hero product. It can be used in innovative new products, such as Salmon Wellington or salmon bacon, that are both healthy and delicious. The latter was even recognised at The International Innovation Awards in the Product Category.
Of course, there is much more to Thammachart Seafood than salmon. Ms Davies points out the company’s goal to create healthy lifestyle communities through healthy eating which requires offering other well-known seafood products as well as introducing new ones to consumers. “We have always wanted a diverse product mix on our counters. The challenge in Thailand is that people aren’t going to buy what they aren’t already familiar with, so we need to find ways to shine the spotlight on other products,” Mr Davies adds.
Offering customers a wide range of products is only one part of the equation. It’s also important that these are easily accessible and up to date with current trends. “Our values are customer-centric. We are always looking at ways to develop new products that meet demands and needs. This can be making indulgent foods healthier to keep up with trends or providing side dishes and ingredients that make shopping easier,” Ms Davies states. “The feedback we constantly hear from customers is that they want more convenience. That is important for us to provide.”
This approach extends beyond its retail outlets. Thammachart Seafood owns the Dock and Lobster Lab food and beverage brands while managing Ocean Bar at Central Food Retail. More recently, it launched 80 below in Siam Paragon’s Gourmet Market, an experience-driven establishment with live tanks and a micro-cannery. There is also a foodservice operation which focuses on five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and other premium clientele. Different ventures do have different needs but that doesn’t change Thammachart Seafood’s approach to the customer experience.
Thammachart Seafood had been scaling up its digital efforts prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company saw a dramatic increase in online sales when lockdowns were enacted in Thailand since customers knew the brand and had no issues with buying their products online. “Our online operations were successful, but the pandemic really fast-tracked growth. We had to make sure the infrastructure was in place to support these efforts. It was also important to be adaptable to the situation,” Mr Davies points out.
With the country reopening and people going out more, the percentage of online sales has decreased as in-person transactions increase. And while it could be easy to see this as a competition, Thammachart Seafood views the situation as an opportunity to improve the customer experience. “Ultimately, the online and offline experience needs to be complimentary. These two areas are not competing with one another but actually working towards providing customers with a seamless experience,” Mr Davies says. “It is extremely important we utilise all of our resources to operate efficiently.”
Work is currently underway on creating a one-stop shop where the company’s offline and online outlets come together to make life easier for anyone wanting quality seafood. “We envision it as a complete customer experience where someone can purchase items from across our outlets. For instance, they could have something from Lobster Lab and the online store in the same cart. The goal is to make buying seafood as easy as possible,” Ms Davies explains. “Our focus is to make sure they aren’t losing time or money on things like transportation and delivery. If the online and offline experiences are compatible, people can enjoy seafood whenever they wish, wherever they are.”
Mr Davies originally came to Thailand over 20 years ago as part of a PhD program on microorganisms. While originally scheduled to last six months, the experience turned out to be more than he had bargained for. “I spent six months on a shrimp farm which was an entirely new experience for me. I was really thrown into the deep end. At the end of the program, the company’s managing director offered me a job. It ended up being an easy decision to stay,” Mr Davies recalls.
Eventually, he would buy out the company and take it under his wing. As the operation grew, Mr and Ms Davies were approached by what was then known as Carrefour in Thailand about selling shrimp directly to customers. It was the challenge they were looking for and led to them developing a contract farming system.
The success of that endeavour caught the eye of The Mall Group, who approached the couple about taking over a seafood counter inside Emporium shopping mall with a second outlet opening in Central Chidlom Food Hall shortly thereafter. They decided to dive into the venture and Thammachart Seafood was born in 2007. “We accepted the challenge and believed it was something we could do based on our previous experience. We knew the best way to experience seafood is from farm to counter and it meant we could ensure a great product,” Ms Davies explains. “We also did a customer survey before taking over so we could have a better idea of what people wanted. One of the most common responses was that they wanted fish fillets and not whole fish. That is where we began.”
Over time, they took over more seafood counters in stores across the country and now oversee more than 180 outlets. Their strategy has benefited all parties involved. “We took a headache away from retailers who find managing seafood to be a challenge. Customers benefit because they can enjoy fresh, quality seafood,” Mr Davies notes. “And for us, having our staff at the counters is really beneficial. They are our eyes and ears and provide vital information which helps us make better decisions.”
The next chapter of the Thammachart Seafood story will involve continued expansion. In 2018, Thai Union Group acquired a stake in the company and with COVID-19 subsiding, it is now exploring new opportunities. “Our focus is local, but we are also looking regionally. COVID-19 set us back a bit, but by the first quarter of 2022, we will start looking at regional expansion,” Mr Davies says. “Our main objective is to first push the brand into the regional markets as we have a lot of products, some of which are already drawing interest. There is the opportunity to replicate some of our other ventures, such as food and beverage outlets, as well.”
- Thammachart Seafood began operations in 2007
- The company oversees more than 180 seafood retail counters in Thailand
- Thammachart Seafood owns the Dock and Lobster Lab food and beverage brands
- Nearly 90 percent of the company’s salmon imports come from Norway
- In 2018, Thai Union Group acquired a stake in Thammachart Seafood
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