Jim Salmon is the consummate professional. James SalmonThat professionalism is the touchstone of his career within the U.S. seafood industry, the military, and now with Global Blue Technologies. Jim has been chairman of the National Fisheries Institute, the organization that represents the entire U.S. seafood industry. He was Vice President in charge of literally every aspect of supplying seafood to General Mills’ restaurants including Red Lobster and Olive Garden (before Darden Restaurants Inc. purchased them). That included providing ice to Third World fishermen, visiting processing plants around the world, tasting shrimp in a dozen or more countries and seeing that all of it was prepared, packaged and sent to a few thousand restaurants across the nation without delay.

Of far more importance, Jim trained pilots and served two tours of duty in Vietnam as commander of a Cobra helicopter gunship platoon. Whether in Vietnam, Florida, or South Texas, Jim always uses his varied abilities to accomplish the strategic mission of our nation, the seafood industry and now of Global Blue Technologies and Sustainable Sea Products International.

Jim is a southern Mississippi native; graduate of Florida’s prestigious Stetson University; and head of GBT’s sales, marketing, and distribution arm: Sustainable Sea Products International (SSPI). But his most proud accomplishments are his two grown sons: Ian and Sean.

John Aquilino: Jim, you’ve been associated with the seafood industry at the highest levels for nearly 40 years. You traveled to as many countries and more searching, sampling and purchasing premier quality seafood for the nation’s largest seafood restaurant network. I would imagine you could pick and choose the aspect of the business, if not the organization with whom you wanted to share your experience and expertise. Why Global Blue?

Jim Salmon: First and foremost the shrimp!

What I know about shrimp – the different species, what it takes to raise them and market them, and, most important, how they taste – could make me sound like that fella in the movie “Forrest Gump” who went on and on and on about shrimp.

When I say Global Blue Shrimp tastes better than any I’ve encountered throughout my career and anywhere in the world, I say this in all honesty and without any reservation or hint of self-promotion.

But don’t take my word for it. The Texas processor handling GBT shrimp told me “These are the best tasting shrimp I’ve ever had.” This fellow, I won’t mention his name, handles millions of pounds of shrimp both farmed and wild caught and distributes product around the country. If he says something is that special…you really have to listen.

JA: What makes GBT shrimp so different.

JS: Over the last four years after David Wills and I first drove into Brownsville, Texas, we have been preparing for the day when GBT’s state of the art technology in shrimp aquaculture would produce the quality shrimp in size, texture, color and flavor that we knew will change the paradigm for aquaculture and the production of farmed shrimp in general. Well, that day has arrived.

Many think of shrimp as having little difference in flavor and texture from species to species. Others claim farmed shrimp can’t compare with wild caught. Well those over simplifications are not only inaccurate but also no longer apply. Once you taste GBT shrimp, the characteristics that make that particular shrimp special become obvious.

GBT shrimp are starting to turn heads at the processor level and now at the commercial buyer level.

When I say “buyer,” I’m really referring to every shrimp lover no matter his or her position within the cultural ladder…from bottom to top. GBT shrimp, thus far, has not only impressed our processor (the company that turns our harvest product into the commercial form sent to chefs or retail outlets whether headless shell-on or frozen head-on) but also marketers such as distributors, retailers and foodservice companies and end users (you and me).

JA: Jim you are starting to sound like every other sales/PR person with self-inflated claims.

JS: If I sound like a number of companies whose names keep popping up in the trade media, it is because almost word for word every time we say what we are doing somebody copies it, says they are doing it, and make promises they know they can’t keep. It’s frustrating and annoying.

I am not going to name names but any thing we put on our website suddenly appears elsewhere. And the claims grow more unbelievable each time they reappear.

“We can grow shrimp in the Arctic.” “We can grow shrimp in the Alps.” “We can grow a million pounds of shrimp overnight in an auditorium filled with old bathtubs.” I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

What is really frustrating is that the trade media just keeps publishing the most outlandish Press Release statements as if they are Gospel no questions asked, no claim challenged, no effort to prove if the system is practical much less true. Sure in theory you can grow shrimp in a recirculating system at the North Pole. But where are you getting the energy to keep the water from freezing much less warm enough for shrimp to grow? And if you are growing a million pounds of shrimp in a modified dairy barn what are you doing with your wastewater? Flushing it down the commode?

It’s really simple to tell if a company is for real or just a bunch of marketing double speak. Check to see if they produce more media or more shrimp.

GBT has been pretty silent in the trade media. Our focus is not publicity but real production. Food production, and seafood in specific, is not a game. It’s a necessity. If GBT makes a claim, we are duty bound to show it is the truth and not some carnival shell game. What we say and do has a tremendous impact on the Earth, the Oceans, all of us. That responsibility we shoulder is too important to mislead with empty promises.

JA: Agreed. So what is GBT’s secret.

JS: GBT’s “secret” is the fact that the GBT aquaculture system comes as close to nature in how its shrimp are being raised as is technically possible today. It shows in the health, quality and taste of the shrimp they are producing. That’s not a marketing claim. It’s a fact. Come by and taste for yourself.

If I sound like I’m repeating myself it is because you cannot emphasize too much the importance of how shrimp tastes. GBT shrimp have no chemicals added, no antibiotics, just a lobster like-taste and texture.

JA: That makes sense. If you can eliminate things that cause off flavors and keep the production process natural, your shrimp should taste the way Nature intended.

JS: Now you’ve got it.

JA: Jim, the GBT aquaculture system is very interesting. So far, if you combine the federally funded research that went into seeking a globally competitive U.S. shrimp aquaculture industry, the millions in R&D in South Africa, the funding for the Port Isabel facility and the current Copano Bay farm, something on the order of 15 years and $75 million has gone into making GBT an “over-night” success. Can you explain where your company, Sustainable Sea Products International, LLC (SSPI), enters the picture and how it benefits investors in GBT-Cameron as well as any of the other GBT ventures?

JS: The first thing to consider is the fact that you can grow the most perfect shrimp in the world but unless you have a way to sell them, they do you and the world food supply very little good. Part of SSPI’s function is to position our product with sales companies that can get us into the mainstream of shrimp sales in the United States and internationally.

Samples of GBT shrimp were placed with Whole Foods, COSTCO and Giant Food Stores, to name a few. Corporate purchasing departments on the East and West Coasts and the Midwest met to determine the strategy for putting the GBT branded product into their seafood cases. GBT shrimp received a unanimous positive response. Each sample met with the same praise for their color, taste, and firm texture. That’s unheard of.

We feel this is the appropriate start to our marketing and branding program because as we expand our production of GBT shrimp we are giving the corporate buyer and the ultimate consumer, the end user, an expectation of better quality and more wholesome shrimp product for their families. Our goal over the next two years is to have complete control over our branding, marketing and sales due to the strategic roll out we are proceeding with today.

JA: I can see that but how do the investors’ bottom line benefit?

JS: By working to make GBT as vertically integrated as possible including eventually having our own processing capabilities added to our own sales, marketing, distribution center, we reduce the cost at each level. The lower the cost; the greater the profit. Higher profits mean a greater return to the investor.

Third-party processers lower returns to GBT by taking their upfront cut. Third party sales, marketing, and distribution firms’ fees reduce GBT’s share by that much more. With SSPI, we can reduce these costs by 50 percent or more.

At every level, GBT investors have a financial stake not only in domestic production but also international ventures too. If that sounds unconventional it is because GBT is an unconventional company. How we raise our shrimp and how we treat our investors, staff, and everyone else up to and including the people who buy our shrimp is unconventional.

JA: What do you mean by that?

JS: I mean you get value for your money whether you invest, work for us or buy and eat our shrimp.

JA: Good point. Thanks.