August 25, 2011, 4:37 PM

Anderson Seafoods lands the perfect box

The seafood retailer gets shoppers their fresh fish the next day.

Lead Photo

After more than 30 years of supplying rare fish to California restaurants, Anderson Seafoods decided last year to start selling its fish directly to consumers online. But getting fresh seafood to customers’ doorsteps fast, without freezing it and without it spoiling was a problem it took the fishmonger nearly a year to solve, says chief financial officer and vice president of business development Alberto Andrade.

“We are in the fish business, but when you talk about the logistics and how to ship things nationwide, that was something relatively new to us and we needed some guidance,” he says.

The retailer vetted several shipping providers and for packing materials considered Styrofoam, but found it took up too much space in the warehouse and was not environmentally friendly. It tried inflatable bags, but they had a tendency to burst under changing pressure conditions on airplanes.

Late last year, with help from its UPS account executive, the retailer settled on a box design that would keep the seafood at precisely 38 degrees long enough for shoppers to receive and refrigerate their fish. 38 degrees is ideal, Andrade says, so that frozen fish stays frozen and fresh fish stays cool enough to remain fresh, but not so cold that it freezes and potentially loses flavor.

The retailer uses a standard cardboard box emblazoned with Anderson Seafoods’ logo and containing a custom-designed foil cooler that keeps the fish at the right temperature and acts as a stabilizer so that the fish is not damaged in transit. The fish are sealed in vacuum-packed bags next to gel packs and dry ice within a plastic bin.

The retailer ran numerous tests to assure its fish remained fresh and intact. “We used readers that measured the temperature inside the box and the flesh of the fish,” Andrade says. “It plotted the temperature of the package by the hour during the lifespan of the test. We realized we had something special when we could get to almost two days at the right temperature.”

If a shopper places an order before 1:30 p.m. Pacific time, Anderson promises the order will be delivered the next day before 10:30 a.m. via UPS. It offers free shipping on orders over $119 and a $25 flat rate for all other deliveries.

Andrade says the shipping offer gives Anderson Seafood a competitive advantage. “If you order from somebody else, their prices tend to be the same, but what they don’t tell you is they charge $30 or $60 or $80 for shipping and handling. Thanks to our position early as a wholesaler, we get discounts on bulk orders that we can pass on to the consumer.”

While Anderson would not release sales in dollars, Andrade says sales so far this year are 28% above its forecast and web traffic is up 53%. Average time spent on the site has also increased to three minutes and 47 seconds, versus an average of one minute and 33 seconds six month ago.

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