High Liner Foods VP of Aquaculture Procurement Mike Kocsis already has an impressively long resume, with a career at Nippon Suisan Kaisha (Nissui) groups Gorton's and King & Prince in Gloucester, Brunswick, Georgia and Washington State since 2003.
How did you enter the seafood industry and why? What drew you to it as a career?
I was recruited into the seafood industry after completing my studies in Supply Chain Management and International Business. Early in my career, I was searching for a company with a strong supply chain program in order to gain experience in a variety of functional areas. I’d always been passionate about international trade and cultural exchange, so things accelerated rapidly once I gained exposure to the global reach of the industry. Seafood provided a challenging global environment where I could apply my skills and also pursue some of my passions. Beyond that, I’ve been drawn to the incredible group of people that I’ve met along the way.
What do you aim to achieve in the sector?
I want to grow seafood consumption within the North American market. Seafood is a dramatically underrepresented protein source in the North American consumer’s diet. We have millions of people who are missing out on the health benefits of seafood. They are also forgoing the fun and unique eating experience that comes with our industry’s diverse product offerings. We have to simplify the experience of selecting, preparing, and enjoying seafood in order to bring more people to the table.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I envision myself continuing to lead at an organization like High Liner Foods: An innovative multinational company with a rich heritage and an eye towards the future. It’s a company that attracts people committed to setting and achieving big goals. We are building such an amazing team of people here that it’s hard to imagine finding that level of engagement elsewhere.
In your view, what are the seafood industry’s biggest future challenges?
In the short term, one of the industry’s biggest challenges is driving responsible fisheries management, aquaculture, and labor practices across every segment of our highly fragmented, global value chain. It’s about raising the standards of the entire industry and it is critical for our future success. That will create a stronger foundation to counter our industry’s longer term challenge: Sustainably providing seafood for the nine billion people expected to be on the planet by mid-century. In order to ensure adequate, responsible seafood supply for the world in the future, we have to be working on it now.
What kind of people does the industry need to face these challenges and take it forward?
Solutions will be generated through the hard work and perseverance of many different kinds of people. Strong leadership, technological innovation, and diversity of thought and experience are critically important for the seafood industry’s future success. Most importantly, we need globally-minded people. The problems we are trying to solve are global. People who can effectively think and act on a global scale will be required in order to generate viable solutions.
What could current leadership in your sector learn to be better at?
There is a strong need for greater collaboration in order to solve some of the higher-level issues we collectively face. In some cases, it may also be the most efficient path to exceed customer expectations or bring those coveted new consumers into seafood. Some people label it as pre-competitive effort, or "coopetition," among other terms. Whatever we choose to call it, the seafood business environment of the future will require much more collaboration among industry players.
What is the perception of the seafood industry as a career choice amongst younger people, do you think?
This depends on the lens that we use to view the industry, particularly because of the global reach and diversity of products and sectors. The perception of the industry to a young person in a major city in Europe is likely to be vastly different than a young person in a small coastal or rural community in Africa or Asia. In terms of North America, I believe young people are largely unaware of the sector as a potential source of employment, or more importantly, the place for a rewarding career. It means that we as an industry need to do a better job of selling the merits of seafood and the dynamic work environment it presents for younger employees. Building awareness is key.
What is the single best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Stay low. Keep your feet moving. Be perfect.
What would you be doing professionally if you weren’t in your current role?
It’s hard to consider the alternatives at this point. I’m fortunate to work with a great group of people and I enjoy what I’m doing. I have always been inspired by people that work in humanitarian aid logistics and international disaster relief. In addition to responding to massive challenges on a global scale, it involves a combination of managing international supply chain complexity, promoting cross-cultural exchange, and helping people.