(UNIONTOWN, Alabama) — Harvest Select, the Alabama seafood company with catfish as its main attraction, has acquired Birmingham-based Steel City Seafood, expanding its overall operations and product lines to include Gulf-caught seafood.
“The addition of Steel City Seafood allows us to offer a full spectrum of wild fish and farmed products,” said Randy Rhodes, president of Harvest Select. “Our anchor will always be U.S. farm-raised catfish, but our Alabama presence now increases our footprint to include southern Gulf seafood and other species which naturally complement our current line of products.”
Harvest Select currently processes more than 750,000 pounds of catfish each week at its Uniontown, Alabama facility. Steel City Seafood broadens that product line to include shrimp, oysters, grouper, snapper, tile fish, triggerfish, pampano, and various wild species caught off the coast, Rhodes said. The Steel City acquisition may also open the door to crawfish, alligator, drum, redfish and other favorites from Louisiana and the Bayou.
“It matches us,” said Michael Locascio, VP of sales. “We’re a Southern company, and now we’ll be offering Southern Gulf species and products that are almost within our fingertips.”
“This also allows us to reach the restaurants, or restaurant chains and retail operations that couldn’t meet our order minimums,” Locascio said. “We have the opportunity now to use a smaller fleet of trucks to deliver product under 1,000 pounds, so now we can get to those smaller accounts without disrupting the business we already have in place.
The larger company will still service broadliners and large accounts through the Harvest Select side of the house, Locascio said.
Through the use of current trucking and logistics, Harvest Select will use its existing routes and back-hauls to facilitate supply and distribution of larger shipments to existing customers and open the doors for growth to include new customers. The umbrella organization grows to approximately 385 employees across farming, processing, transportation, front office and other divisions.
The company has more than 4,900 acres of catfish farming operations across the Mississippi Delta, East Mississippi and West Central Alabama. Because of its long, successful history with its catfish operations, “we have a unique opportunity to logistically enhance Steel City’s capabilities and growth,” Rhodes said. “We’ve already found a number of cooperative opportunities that are going to be great for both operations,” he said.
In addition, Harvest Select will launch soon a revamped e-commerce site that services both retailers and consumers. This site will quickly expand to include southern gulf products sourced through Steel City Seafood, and allows the Harvest Select to increase their distribution capabilities.
The Uniontown plant is two and a half hours away from major air carriers, while the Steel City Seafood facility just a quarter mile away from FedEx and UPS.
The purchase also brings Steel City Seafood’s existing relationships with Gulf Wild and FishTrax, two seafood trackability systems that disclose exactly where a customer’s Gulf species was caught, by whom, and from what harvesting vessel.
“To see where your fish has come out of the water, that’s what chefs like to see, they like to tell the story,” Locascio said. “And consumers appreciate that, too, so it’s not just good for our customers, but for their end users, as well.”
Adds Harvest Select President, Randy Rhodes, “We have been researching and planning for this opportunity for years.”
“We looked around the industry over the last six years, we didn’t really find that right niche for us and we believe this is because we’re able to sell Alabama Gulf and Gulf of Mexico species along with our Alabama-grown fresh catfish,” Rhodes said.