India’s Captain Fresh in talks to buy EU salmon processor, US shrimp deal still in works

VG-funded Indian seafood player Captain Fresh is closing in on the acquisition of a European salmon processing plant while still negotiating a deal for a US shrimp importer, sources say.

Venture capital (VC) funded Indian seafood player Captain Fresh is closing in on the acquisition of a European salmon processing plant while still negotiating a deal for US shrimp importer Central Seaway Co. (CenSea), sources told Undercurrent News. Captain Fresh, valued at $500 million in a 2022 VC fundraising round, is in talks to buy Polish smoked and fresh salmon processor Koral, which is majority-owned by private equity (PE) Abris Capital Partners, sources said.

Koral is the remaining asset left in the PE-backed Graal group after the sale of the company’s canned fish and ready meal assets to German food giant Untemehmensgruppe Theo Muller earlier in 2023, a deal first reported by Undercurrent.

Wojciech Jezierski, senior partner with Abris, declined to comment to Undercurrent. Boguslaw Kowalski, the former CEO of Graal who exited at the point of sale to Muller, did not respond. The Koral plant, which produces fresh, smoked and marinated salmon and whitefish under brands like Super Fish as well as private label, is 22,000 square meters in size. According to the Graal website, the plant in Kukinia, in the northeast of Poland, has 23 production lines for fresh, cold and hot smoked and marinated fish. The company can process 100 metric tons of raw material daily, with salmon and trout, halibut, seabass, and tuna as its main species.

As well as smoked products, Koral can produce fresh fish in skin-packs and modified atmosphere packaging. Over 500 are employed in the plant, the website states. Utham Gowda, the CEO and founder of Captain Fresh, who discussed the company’s desire to expand in Europe and the US with Undercurrent earlier this year, declined to comment on the Koral talks.

Gowda has hired Spanish executive Basola Valles to lead the European business as part of his expansion plan. Valles, who worked on Amazon’s European launch and has held top positions with other corporates, did not respond to a request for comment. US-based boutique advisory firm Antarctica Advisors, which is running Koral’s sales process, declined to comment. Antarctica also ran the process for the other Graal assets to Muller. Antarctica is also running the sale process of US shrimp importer and frozen seafood supplier CenSea, which Undercurrent revealed Captain Fresh is also in discussion to buy. It’s understood these talks are continuing.

Executives with CenSea were not immediately available for comment.

Who is Captain Fresh?

Gowda’s Captain Fresh is one of several Asian companies seeking to bring technological advancement to the seafood sector, with another being Indonesia’s eFishery. In September, Captain Fresh announced a $20m capital boost as part of an ongoing funding round for global expansion. The investment was led by Japan-based SBI Investment and Evolvence Capital, with continued support from internal investors such as Accel, Matrix Partners India, Prosus Ventures and Tiger Global, among others, the company said at the time. With a particular focus on penetrating the European and US markets, the company is already engaged in discussions with potential allies there, it said.

“We stand at a transformative juncture in our aim to establish Captian Fresh on the global stage,” said Gowda in a statement from September.

“Over the past three years, we’ve built significant supply­side capacity by establishing a robust network connecting us directly to Indian coastal fishermen and farmers. This is in addition to developing deep partnerships with more than a dozen export-focused factories.”

He added: “Although we handle over 80,000t of seafood annually, it’s merely scratching the surface of our potential. Our platform is primed to optimize every investment dollar, especially in high-margin markets like Europe and the US.” Captain Fresh offers a diverse product range, encompassing over 100 varieties of fish and seafood, with a presence in more than 30 countries worldwide, the company said at the time.

The company has also been inking supply deals with plants in the rest of Asia after becoming its home country’s largest seafood factory operator, the company’s founder previously told Undercurrent.

He said that Captain Fresh has signed supply deals with plants in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam after growing its domestic footprint.


Source: Undercurrent News