Perseverance and innovation are responsible for the founding and success of ADS Seafood and Sea Delight. This Florida-based company is a family-owned and operated business with Eugenio Sanchez at the helm. Originally from Spain, Eugenio came to the United States from Venezuela in 1986 with the idea of importing shrimp and seafood from his country into the United States. At the time, he had no money and spoke little English so he took menial jobs to support himself while this initiative capitalized. It is during this time that he was offered the opportunity to become a seafood buyer with a company located in Tampa, Florida.
As a buyer of seafood imported from South America, Eugenio learned the inner workings of the industry. And eventually, through hard work and resolve, he was able to launch his own company. In 1995 Eugenio started ADS Seafood, Inc., doing business as Atlanta Fisheries, an importer of southern species of fresh seafood in the Miami area. Just over 10 years later, he founded Sea Delight, LLC, targeting the frozen-seafood market.
Family was incorporated into the business early on. Today the company has about 20 employees; nearly half are related to Eugenio. His wife, Margarita Sanchez, works in the human-resources department. The couple’s three daughters are also part of the company. Marilyn and Annabelle work in accounting, and Adriana Sanchez-Lindsay oversees incoming shipments and the company’s sustainability efforts. Cesar Bencosme, their nephew, is the vice president and works within the sales and marketing division. “Joining the business was an ongoing conversation with my dad,” Adriana says. “The company was growing and he was looking for people he could trust and that would look out for the best interest of the company.” And, as a family-oriented company, Eugenio wanted to provide his children with an opportunity for professional growth and a legacy for their own children. Adriana adds, “I knew it was going to be challenging but I also thought it would be interesting, especially with the sustainability aspect.”
Adriana spent the last year studying the impact overfishing and general fishing practices had on the environment. The company’s commitment to sustainability drove it to develop cooperative efforts with World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia, Central America, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Adriana also worked with Trace Register, the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise conservation program, and a handful of other vendors to advance their sustainability goals. Her top initiatives included pushing the agenda of sustainability, continuing to work with fishery improvement projects, and providing resources to local fishermen in Indonesia and Vietnam to test the use of circle hooks. Their passion for sustainability is twofold, Adriana explains. Market trends reveal there is a huge wave of interest from consumers in wholesome, organic, and environmentally friendly foods. “We do it because there is a demand for it and we believe in it,” she says. “Sustainability is important to the industry and to maintain our business for the long-term,” Bencosme adds. “The challenge is how to combine the economic point and the actual practice.”
Actively participating in the charge for environmentally safe fishing, Sea Delight works with fishery improvement projects (FIP) to educate and improve practices at the source level. Sea Delight is currently sponsoring circle hook trials on longline vessels operating out of Vietnam’s Nha Trang and Tuy Hoa. “We are providing fishermen with 400 hooks per vessel so they can try out the hooks and see that they can have similar catch rates for target species while being environmentally conscious by reducing bycatch,” Adriana says.
Despite the fact that the seafood industry is extremely competitive, Sea Delight is in the number two or three spot for treated seafood products. “This is one of our competitive advantages,” Bencosme says. “We concentrate on big distributors that aren’t able to do their own importing.”
With nearly 25 years in the seafood business, Eugenio has developed key relationships that have contributed to where the company is today. They have a vision of continued growth. “You can’t stop on your growth path, looking for new customers or opportunities, because you’ll eventually expire,” Bencosme adds. “Our goal is to keep growing and expanding.”
ADS Seafood and Sea Delight continues to enhance their national reach as they prepare to enter the Canadian market. High-quality and superior service are a priority as the Sanchez family prepares to dive into the next level. “The key is to develop partnerships with our suppliers and customers and to forge long-term relationships,” Bencosme says. While bringing in talented, well-connected employees may be critical to company growth, Bencosme says family will always remain the core of the company.