Fresh Food

Q&A: Bumble Bee CEO Talks Sustainable Seafood

Jan Tharp discusses a new $40M fund to support oceans

lempert

June is World Oceans Month, a global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of the planet by 2030—a focus on conservation and sustainability. In the below conversation, Jan Tharp, CEO of Bumble Bee Seafood Co., discusses leadership and how seafood sustainability is evolving.

Phil Lempert: This is World Ocean's Month, a global movement to call on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030, a focus on conservation and sustainability. Joining me is one of those global leaders: Jan Tharp, the CEO of the Bumble Bee Seafood Co. Jan, today you're making a formal announcement on Bumble Bee's new commitments to sustainability. Perfect timing. I know that Bumble Bee was one of the leaders in the formation of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation back in 2009, as well as many other initiatives from that point forward, what are you going to be announcing that's new?

Jan Tharp: We are very proud of our actions in the past, but as you mentioned, today is all about the future. We are on the cusp of setting these bold goals for our planet. When you talk about the issue of sustainability, it is as big as the ocean itself; it is quite complex. And one of the things that we are trying to do is to take this very complex subject and break it down into a platform that's really easy to understand. And so we're calling that new platform seafood future; it's really centered on fish oceans and people. And today is really about what Bumble Bee is doing for the future to protect the health of our ocean. And I think one of the biggest things that we are announcing is a $40 million accelerator fund over the course of the next five years to tackle those complex issues in sustainability related to fish, ocean and people.

Well, we all want a greener, I guess, in your case of bluer world. Can you share some facts with me about why this initiative is so important?

Absolutely. If you look at the ocean, it covers 70% of our planet. If you look at our weather patterns and our climate, they're all regulated by the ocean. Half of the oxygen in the world is coming from the ocean. When you look at the people aspect of it, 3 billion people around the globe rely on the ocean for their protein and about 200 million rely on the fishing industry for their livelihoods. So when you package that up and you look at the fact that the ocean is at the center of what we do at Bumble Bee, we couldn't find a more important project.

Consumers want to know more about where their foods come from. They want to know what the farmer, what the fishermen are all doing and that they're being treated well. What is Bumble Bee doing to meet these needs?

So that is one of the most important issues that we are facing. And I think we've done an incredible job over the years. One great example of that is in our Anova business. And that is centered in Indonesia. The Anova brand was one of the first fair trade-certified fishery in the seafood sector. And not only were they the first there, they were also the first to implement an end-to-end blockchain. So we can actually track our fish from small villages in Indonesia all the way through to the consumers played at one of our customer's restaurants. So from that perspective and really doubling down on the social side of fishing, I think it's a great example of some of the very positive news that is going on inside of Bumble Bee.

So talking about positive news, and now don't get angry with me, but plant-based everything is lining the supermarket shelves. We've got retailers who are putting up just plant-based sections. How does Bumble Bee play in that space?

If you look at the population, the population growth is expected to be at 10 billion people by 2050. And when we look at that and we look at our business, we know that there isn't just one solution to be able to sustain an increase in demand for seafood to 10 billion people that tax on the ocean is going to be too great. So at Bumble Bee, we embrace technologies and innovations that help reduce that tax on the ocean or open to wild capture fisheries, which is our DNA. We're open to aquaculture. You mentioned plant-based seafood. There's also cell-based seafood. We believe in plant-based seafood. We believe that there is space, and it is a complimentary product line. And we did, we were one of the first companies to enter into an agreement with good catch products in order to distribute plant-based seafood alongside traditional seafood.

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