Sweetbay Supermarket asks seafood suppliers to show they're sustainable

The owners of Sweetbay Supermarket are stepping up their effort to offer seafood raised and harvested by sustainable practices.

The 1,600 U.S. supermarkets owned by the Belgian Delhaize Group will notify 280 seafood product suppliers to prove they use sustainable practices by March 31 or submit a plan to start. Otherwise their products will be dropped by Delhaize's Hannaford, Food Lion and Sweetbay chains.

The verification covers 4,500 products ranging from all fresh and frozen fish and shellfish down to canned tuna and seafood ingredients in ready-to-heat meals. About the only piscine products left out are cat and plant food and fish oil supplements.

"Sustainable seafood is a hot-button item with about 15 percent of shoppers now but growing steadily," said George Parmenter, Delhaize manager of corporate responsibility. "We want to be a leader in this."

Delhaize hired the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, an independent firm, for advice.

With an overwhelming majority of seafood consumed in the United States shipped from foreign or severely overfished waters, pressure is building on the seafood industry to adopt fisheries management tactics that preserve supply, maintain the health of the catch and reduce environmental impacts. Rules apply to wild-caught and farm-raised species.

"We hope we don't lose any supplier," said Crystal Noble, Sweetbay's director of meat and seafood. "But this way customers need not do homework to buy sustainable seafood. They will be able to trust we did it for them."

Most seafood shoppers are unfamiliar with the debate stoked by nonprofit conservation groups ranging from Greenpeace to the Monterey Bay Aquarium that promote printable pocket guides online listing what to buy or not buy. Virtually all grocers today carry most of the 22 "red list" species such as orange roughy and Chilean sea bass that have been fished near extinction.

"It's fabulous they're making the effort, but it hinges on the details," said Casson Trenor, Greenpeace campaign manager.

Greenpeace gave Aldi, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and Sweetbay barely passing grades this year. Publix and Winn-Dixie flunked. Like Sweetbay, Publix asked a nonprofit research firm to develop and verify sustainability standards for 200 seafood products from 97 suppliers.

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Muggles don't have to wait in long lines at Universal Orlando to buy all those 600 products created for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The park now sells some of them online at the park website.

With 200 products available on the Web, Universal hopes the other two-thirds will be up by August.

"We waited until we had enough supply after many products sold out faster than expected at the park," said Alyson Lundell, a Universal spokeswoman.

Big sellers: magic wands priced up to $30, broomsticks and Pygmy Puffs, plush animals that resemble pink cotton candy.

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Installed in March by new owners of the Tampa Beef 'O' Brady's sports pub chain, chief executive Chris Elliott has restocked top management.

Joe Uhl, a one-time Cinnabon franchisee, is the new chief operating officer while Jim Walker has replaced Nick Vojnovic as chief development officer.

Walker most recently was an executive at Baja Fresh. Vojnovic left to pursue an MBA at the University of South Florida.

Los Angeles investment group Levine Leichtman took control by turning $24.5 million in debt securities it held into equity after the 250 store chain lost about 20 franchisees in the downturn.

Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Sweetbay Supermarket asks seafood suppliers to show they're sustainable 07/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 23, 2010 1:22pm]

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