Direct Source Seafood

The finest seafood from around the world
Written by: 
Ivy Carter
Produced by: 
Drew Taylor

Direct Source Seafood (DSS), a seafood importer and wholesaler, was founded in 2010 and has had great success and sales growth in its first four years in business. DSS now distributes to customers across the United States from its headquarters in Seattle, Wash., and satellite offices throughout the country.

DSS prides itself on a personal commitment to deliver the freshest, safest, highest quality frozen seafood available in the industry. “Our owners and associates guarantee that all products in our lines are produced as if we, ourselves, were serving them to our own families,” proudly states Dave Almeda, president of DSS. Management believes that due to consistent high-quality standards, DSS has been able to grow its business while servicing restaurants and retailers throughout the United States.

DSS is not only committed to quality, but also to upholding the integrity of the seafood industry as a whole. In order to deliver on this initiative, DSS offers products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. The company’s products are produced using only the industry’s highest standards, and all production plants are in compliance with government regulations to further ensure food safety to its customers.

Almeda proudly leads a team of sales and support staff in DSS’ seafood importing and wholesaling business, alongside vice presidents Ian Kennaway, Roman Tkachenko and Joe Crowe.

Almeda, Kennaway, Tkachenko and Crowe all come from different areas of the seafood business, which has contributed to the company’s success. “We are all from diverse backgrounds,” explains Crowe. “We put together a diverse team, too. I think we bring it all together; our differences open up our eyes. If you have the resources, supply, etc., having diversity in our backgrounds is very helpful when bringing new products to market, because everyone has a different perspective – it works.”

The team’s varied knowledge base has proven to be a strength for DSS. “We have a veteran, self-motivated team,” Crowe continues. “We have trust in our team, which is crucial to having a company of this size scattered across the county.”

Direct Source Seafood

Commitment to quality

From domestic and imported shrimp and crab to fish fillets, pasteurized crabmeat and more, DSS never compromises quality. According to Almeda, one of the company’s main objectives has been to develop specifications for quality with overseas processors. All DSS products have a third-party independent inspection prior to being shipped to the United States.

Kennaway notes that the company is sure to prevent any, and all, issues prior to leaving the facilities overseas. “We take care of issues before they make it to the states,” Kennaway clarifies. “We feel this is a worthwhile investment, with 20 percent of our business being domestic and the majority being imported.”

It is evident that Almeda, along with his team, take this commitment seriously. “We have strong relationships with our suppliers and processors and have never failed to fill an order,” Almeda elaborates. “What we pride ourselves on is supply. Some people focus strictly on costs; we do not. We have always fulfilled our commitments, because our long-term relationships with overseas suppliers are solid.”

“When overseas supplies get cut and we have orders that need to be filled, we are not adversely affected because of those good relationships,” adds Kennaway. “We have been loyal and spend time on the relationships we have, so we get the preferential treatment from our overseas suppliers. Part of our core values include that when we make a deal, we deliver.” Furthermore, Kennaway is convinced this helps sustain growth.

Additionally, DSS’ pledge to quality takes it one step further. “Our biggest investment is traveling overseas,” Almeda states. “Visiting with the plants and with the packers; building trust on both sides is important. We need to make sure that they are also sustainable. It is important to us that our partners are stable for our customers.”

According to Kennaway, he and the partners travel to Asia several times a year. “This year I have been to Asia twice and South America three times, as well,” Kennaway details. “We feel it is extremely important to develop relationships at the plant level and to walk the plants to make sure they are meeting our standards. We visit the factories to ensure food safety and for quality reasons, too.”

Company synergies

DSS shares an office with Marine Treasures in Seattle. “They are our sister company,” Almeda explains. “We sell for them and they sell for us as if we are one company. They are a Russian crab importer, one the largest in the country; King crab, Snow crab, Russian sockeye fillet, etc. Part of our arrangement to share the office was to streamline costs; start up a new company and take advantage of different cost-savings on both sides.”

Almeda goes on to note that these synergies allowed DSS to take advantage of what was already in place at Marine Treasures. The plan worked, as DSS only continues to expand and grow sales for both companies today.

Perfection leads to expansion

Over the years DSS has worked hard to expand its product lines while the company strived to develop strict specifications for products. “Working with processors on the quality of our goods, that is one of our top priorities,” Almeda says. “The shrimp industry is hard; people stretch the limits. Companies pack stuff we wouldn’t pack – they will soak and over process shrimp. We are stringent with our specifications, because we want the end-user coming back.”

That commitment has contributed to the trust that retailers put into DSS. Almeda goes on to explain that DSS specializes in private label business for some of the largest national retailers and food service companies in the United States.

The company has become a large player in the Argentine pink shrimp market over the past several years. “One of the reasons we have grown is because we have developed our commodity items into value-added segments,” Almeda elaborates. “We have enhanced products so that we can make them more attractive to the U.S. consumer. We have taken items like freshwater shrimp from Bangladesh, which were never marketed the right way and developed them into our BBQ Bay brand. There was a lack of consumer friendly packaging and guidelines for the consumer with that shrimp; which was needed in the marketplace. Now, we are doing the same thing with the Argentine pink shrimp.”

“The first year, it was tough to sell the Argentine pinks,” Crowe adds. “We had to re-introduce the products. We did a lot of sampling; it was a full educational process, including cooking time, texture, etc. Basically, we reinvented the process.”

And the team’s efforts paid off, as DSS has made its mark. “We are one of the largest, if not the largest, importer of Argentine shrimp,” Crowe continues. “No one else is doing what we do – adding value.”

“We are now leading the industry in that category,” agrees Almeda.

A bright future

DSS has enjoyed double digit growth from 2010 through 2014. DSS is proud of the brands the company has developed and brought to market, such as BBQ Bay brand shrimp and Icy Ocean brand, which includes shrimp, fillets, crabmeat and many other seafood items. DSS has dramatically increased and diversified its customer base, in addition to its product lines.

The team at DSS continues to strive for perfection without cutting corners, no matter how much success the company achieves. “We work hard to treat all customers as if they do the same volume in sales,” Kennaway states. “Despite growth, DSS wants to remain a hands-on, customer-friendly company that places a strong emphasis on service.”

It is clear that no matter the product, DSS strives for perfection. Delivering the finest seafood from around the world, the company never settles. Because of this, customers don’t have to settle either. Direct Source Seafood is on track for success well into the future.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Gulf Crown Seafood