One of the most viewed stories on Bloomberg.com the past view days is headlined "The Man Who Got Americans To Eat Trash Fish Is Now a Billionaire." It reports on Trident Seafoods founder Chuck Bundrant. What struck me about the article is the way it shows two different ways to make money. The first way is to innovate and then popularize the innovation — build a better mousetrap.
As Bloomberg tells it:
At the time, most fishermen took their haul back to the docks where processing companies pulled the crab meat out before sending it to market, leaving them with less time on water. Bundrant outfitted the Billikin with crab cookers and freezing equipment on board, allowing workers to remain at sea. ...Bundrant decided to turn to pollock, a so-called groundfish that was swarming in the Bering Sea. Pollock was popular in Asia but not so much in the U.S. Bundrant thought Americans would like the taste once exposed to it.
His first sale was to the Long John Silver's chain, as the story was recounted in a 2013 article in Evansville Business magazine. Bundrant, on a sales call, served it to the restaurant's CEO, who remarked that he loved the cod -- except it was pollock.
That later opened the door to business with McDonald's and Burger King, as well as with retailers like Costco, all using the less-expensive pollock in sandwiches, fish-and-chips and imitation crab dips.
The second way is to use political influence to get laws passed protecting you from competitors. As Bloomberg tells it:
Trident teamed up with other U.S. companies and turned to Congress to help limit foreign competition. With the backing of then-Washington Senator Warren Magnuson and Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, Congress passed a law that pushed the boundary where foreign fishing boats could freely operate, to 200 miles offshore from 12 miles.
In 1998, Congress ended the practice of foreign companies getting around the 200-mile restriction by registering as a U.S. business. The law required 75 percent American ownership for companies operating in the Pacific.
"One of the bill's architects was Bundrant," said Paine of United Catcher Boats. "It helped his business thrive."
From the perspective of consumers, the first way is better than the second way. The first way lowers fish prices; the second one keeps them higher than they otherwise might be.