Ecuador wild shrimp producer launches online platform for US exports


BOSTON, US -- Ecuadorian producer Natluk has just launched an online platform to sell wild shrimp to the US, with the aim to focus on small volume buyers.

The company has distributed to major US suppliers but and it wants now to focus on medium to small size buyers, particularly to restaurants and hotels, Veronica Nahik, CEO of Natluk, told Undercurrent News.

"We want to focus on clients who appreciate the quality of our product, which has a premium price. The priority for big companies is to minimize costs, but there's a niche for small buyers demanding high end products," Nahik said at this year's Seafood Expo North America trade show, held from March 6-8 in Boston, US.

Natluk exports about 100,000 pounds of wild shrimp per year, of which 20% is projected to be sold via online.

"This is the goal for the first year, but the ultimate goal would be to shift distribution from big suppliers to online," Nahik said.

"This way I would remove middlemen and the company's margin would improve," she said.

Natluk's turnover last year was $5 million and it aims to double its earnings by the end of this year, partly thanks to revenues driven by the online platform but, particularly, on the back of a new line for value-added products.

"We are a medium-sized business, we cannot compete with the giant Ecuadorian processors, so we decided to specialized in value-added products, such as cooked shrimp," Nahik said.

The story behind Natluk

The company started operations six years ago in Playas, Ecuador, motivated to support the socioeconomic development of the area, Nahik told Undercurrent. 

In 2016, Natluk launched a social responsibility program with several local artisan fishing cooperatives in the region, among them Las Balsas, Punta Chopoya, Hijos del Mar and San Pedro.

For every pound of shrimp Natluk sells under the Playas Gold brand, the company gives back a percentage to the cooperatives to be invested in local communities'  health programs, schools instruments, and public works.

"We want to tell the story behind our product, which is a concern of the millennials, they want to know where the fish comes from, who is the producer or if is the product sustainable," Nahik said.

Millennials are becoming an increasingly important demographic for the food industry, and those willing to adjust to meet their needs stand to benefit, was said at a presentation about the millennials' generation at this year's Boston show.

Millennials’ decisions are increasingly driven by social justice issues.

“More than ever I think people understand that when they’re buying food, they’re not just buying calories, a meal is not longer just fuel….they have a power in that choice,” said Patricia Pinto de Silva of NOAA.