Thai Union: The Making of a World-Leading Seafood Company
Thai Union had come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1977 as a Thai private label supplier of canned tuna to US importers. In four short decades it had become one of the leading seafood companies in the world with a turnover in 2016 of US$3.8 billion. Thiraphong Chansiri, the CEO, had led Thai Union brilliantly to make it a true multinational company operating in three continents, delivering value added branded products covering multiple fish species and distributing these under ambient, chilled and frozen temperature conditions. The company planned to more than double its turnover by 2020 to $8 billion while also raising its gross margin from 15.6% to 20%. It sought to do this by growing its existing business; launching innovative, high-margin products; expanding its presence in the food service sector; building a significant emerging market presence; and making more acquisitions. In October 2016, Thai Union announced that it had effectively acquired a 49% ownership stake in Red Lobster, the leading seafood restaurant chain in the United States. This diversification was viewed as an important growth opportunity for the company. The question for Thai Union's leadership team was whether diversification and growth were still the right mantras for the company in 2017, when it had already become the industry leader? A related challenge was in building a global organization that could effectively manage the company's growing and diverse international footprint.