Seafood “Speed Dating” Connects U.S. Suppliers, Foreign Buyers

Ben McKinney and Emily Lane from Luke’s Lobster of Maine (left), meet with French buyer Pascale Maugy from Cosmos Foods at
the 2018 Seafood Buyers Mission. (Photo Credit: Food Export – Northeast)

Some people use speed dating to find life partners, but U.S. seafood exporters recently applied the concept to finding new trading partners. On March 10, Food Export-Northeast organized an event in Boston where 17 U.S. sellers met with 15 interested foreign buyers in the hopes of hooking new sales opportunities.

The event, formally known as the 2018 Seafood Buyers Mission, saw 128 new supplier/buyer introductions that resulted in nearly $3 million in sales, with an additional $2.6 million expected when all is said and done, according to the organizers.

Food Export-Northeast has been sponsoring seafood buyers missions since 2004 with funding support from the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP).

“The MAP funds were used to bring buyers from Asia and Europe to Boston,” said John Belmont, the organization’s communications manager. “In some cases, FAS personnel in these markets helped find buyers interested in U.S. seafood. Many of the suppliers are small and simply could not explore, develop and remain competitive in international markets without MAP-funded programs and services.”

On the big day, participants gathered in a table-filled room where individual buyers and suppliers met for 20-30 minutes. The buyers then moved on to new tables to check out other suppliers, products and prices. If the introductions went well, buyers and sellers made plans to meet at a follow-up conference, which ideally ended with agreements and contracts.

The U.S. exporters in attendance appreciated the personal nature of the event.

“It is important to meet face to face to develop relationships with the buyers and have personal contact to build those relationships,” said Emily Lane, with Luke’s Lobster of Portland, Maine.

Steve Costas, of Marder Trawling in New Bedford, Mass., said, “Meeting together is an excellent opportunity to share a laugh and go over business face to face. It’s nice to give the emails and texting a break.”

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