Interview with SwissShrimp: "It's the efficiency that gives us the freshness"
Many companies believe that they can’t be disrupted. But then it happens: new competition enters the market with a novel business model. While SwissShrimp is not really a start-up anymore, the company has cemented innovative thinking into its DNA. We spoke with Rafael Waber, CEO, about sustainability, digital-first food and the company's strategic focus over the next twelve months.
Insight in brief
- ‘Harvesting to order’ can be digitally implemented and helps to reduce food waste
- Having a logistics infrastructure in place which includes additional packaging is an important component for success.
- It is possible to reach success with next-day delivery, which is a major topic in retail
It won’t happen to us! Many companies believe that they can’t be disrupted. Business is just too good. They are market leaders. But then it happens: a hitherto unknown start-up enters the market with a novel business model, and the traditional players suddenly find themselves facing new competition.
Swiss Shrimp AG has followed a similar course in the food industry. We spoke with Rafael Waber, CEO, about sustainability, digital-first food and the company's strategic focus over the next twelve months. While Swiss Shrimp is not really a start-up anymore, the company has cemented innovative thinking into its DNA.
In one sentence, tell us why retailers and customers in the food industry should buy your products and not those of other suppliers.
Rafael Waber: SwissShrimp are fresh, guaranteed to be free of antibiotics and, compared to frozen imported products, have a significantly lower impact on the environment.
Which aspects of your business model do you consider innovative?
We produce on site at the consumer’s premises, which allows us to considerably shorten distribution channels. In terms of energy, however, local production only makes sense in a “cold” country if the shrimp tanks are heated using excess heat. We managed to do this by establishing a successful local partnership with the Swiss company Schweizer Salinen AG. Today, we use their waste heat, salt and even photovoltaic electricity.
Digitalisation is not very advanced yet for fresh goods in the food industry. Why did you choose a digital-first approach?
You’re right – it’s not very advanced yet in the food industry, and especially not when it comes to fresh fish and fresh seafood. We found that ‘harvesting to order’ can be digitally implemented, which allows us to deliver ultra-fresh shrimp directly to end consumers at home while also significantly reducing food waste. Fresh food often goes bad because of long storage periods, so there are both culinary and ecological reasons to digitalise the ordering process. However, having a logistics infrastructure in place which also includes additional packaging is an important component.
You sell products through an integrated online store. Is there no longer any demand from customers for alternative ordering channels such as email or fax?
There are certainly some chefs who would like to order via fax and private individuals via email. However, we felt that could bog us down and also create data disruptions, so we decided to digitalise from the outset. That’s not so much because of unmanageable heaps of paperwork for us. It’s the efficiency that gives us the freshness, and that leads to greater satisfaction.
Returns are a major challenge in online retail. How do you handle them?
We’ve established a circular logistics system. It’s less about returning the shrimp as it is about returning the additional packaging. Returns work like this: the customer pays for the shrimp in Swiss francs, which also includes the logistics solution. The shrimp are transported in a fresh box developed specifically for sending fresh seafood. The box keeps the shrimp cool for about 24 hours thanks to integrated cooling elements. We also designed the box so that it can be reused up to 200 times. A return label is enclosed in the document pouch, which the customer can attach to the top of the box for return transport. Using the ‘pick@home’ app, the customer can then notify the Swiss postal service, which picks up the box at the customer’s home and returns it to SwissShrimp.
You sell online both B2B and B2C. What kind of synergies does this create? Do you also see risks?
We see it mostly as providing multiple options to the customer. Thanks to the B2C relationship, we are directly connected to our customers and can exchange recipe ideas with them via social media, for example. Customers who buy SwissShrimp from a retailer at the counter also benefit from this. However, the price structure of the different items poses a risk. There shouldn’t be any uncontrolled price growth and communication must be straightforward and easy to understand.
Next-day delivery is a major topic in retail. Is that something you already offer?
Yes. That was our standard solution from the beginning, and it works very well.
What is your strategic focus over the next twelve months?
We want to become even more widely known among end consumers within Switzerland and also create excitement among shrimp lovers, both with recipe ideas and with other benefits such as food safety, animal welfare and the environmental aspects behind the project. Another important area is product development. We want to be able to offer a wide range of shrimp dishes, which should both tickle our customers’ taste buds and increase recycling flexibility in line with our no-food-waste approach.