Hervé Blanes is not simply a seafood purveyor, he is a genuine seafood lover. Born and raised in Marseille, and now residing in Ho Chi Minh City, he’s the CEO of Nine Indochinese Dragons Co Ltd, the leading premium seafood supplier in Vietnam, as well as the owner of both La Poissonnerie and Duke&Oyster Bar in District 2. Having grown up on the beach, his passion for the ocean and commitment to all things seafood is unparalleled. We had the chance to chat with Monsieur Blanes about his business practices, and his devotion to the industry in Vietnam.
Would you please share the highlights of your seafood export industry journey in Vietnam, from 2013 to now?
Towards the end of 2012, my primary client base was in France and Spain. However, as the European economy grew worse and worse with each passing year, I found that I was selling fewer containers to this particular customer pool, as they were sourcing less expensive products, supplied by countries like India, for instance. Vietnam mainly exports seafood to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and America, as customers in those particular countries are willing to pay a premium for the highest quality seafood. However, once the pandemic hit, and there were serious associated supply chain issues, along with a severely spiked increase in ocean freight costs, I unfortunately lost my last remaining European customers. So, I restructured my business model to focus on the domestic market, and it’s honestly been more interesting, with a really promising and sustainable future.
As a seafood exporter, who has worked in multiple markets, what do you think about the quality of seafood in Vietnam? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
In my opinion, Vietnam produces the best quality seafood in all of Asia, and the majority of people working in the industry are incredibly forthright and reliable. Developing long standing relationships with Vietnamese suppliers is really seamless, as compared to other Asian territories.
Vietnamese very quickly understood the importance of producing high-quality, and ASC, Global Gap, Naturland, etc. certified products, which created their ability to sell seafood at higher prices, while simultaneously avoiding competition with other Asian countries’ exports. High volume, with marginal quality, at the cheapest possible price are their competitors’ business models, even to the extreme dismay of the buyers who, as a result, are constantly seeking alternate supply options. Most Vietnamese exporters focus on quality and customer satisfaction, in order to build long-term and fruitful businesses with their customers. For me, that’s the best strategy… I respect that kind of business.
How are sustainablity practices in Vietnam’s seafood industry implemented?
Well, as they don’t want to destroy their businesses, are thinking long term, and in working with the aforementioned organisations to achieve their certifications, they had no choice but to seriously commit to perfect hygiene, planet care, and the sustainability of their seafood resources in Vietnam.
What does seafood mean to you in the global culinary culture?
I’m a seafood lover. I’ve worked in this industry for 40 years, it’s my life’s work and passion. The business is truly amazing, improving and changing every single day, and there is not a solitary second of it which I find boring.
In Asia, people eat and appreciate seafood more than in other countries across the globe, where consumer taste tends to prefer meat and poultry. Seafood is a very healthy choice, and as people today are more health-conscious, they are consuming more seafood.
What kind of seafood do you like the most in Vietnam? By what standard of practice do you manage your seafood products?
I personally love shrimp, fish, and octopus. In Vietnam, I have discovered several new species of seafood which are unavailable in Europe. Freshness is key to this business. I oversee purchasing, ensuring that we procure only the best products, and I manage the logistics side as well. Even if you buy the best products, but transportation takes too long and/or the cold chain is broken, the quality of the products are seriously affected, and the result will be sub-par. Of course, the prices will be a bit higher, but in Vietnam, we have the benefit of domestic air cargo being significantly cheaper than in Europe, for instance, so we are able to sell top-quality seafood here at reasonable prices.
La Poissonnerie and Duke’s Oyster Bar was inspired by your love of seafood?
Yes of course! At our shops and restaurants, we sell carefully selected products, always the freshest, at fair prices. We process all our smoked fish in-house, and prepare our ready made meals by way of the same philosophy - quality first, at reasonable price points.
I’m a big fan of Mediterranean cuisine. I’m French, born in Marseille, my father’s family is Spanish, and my mother’s family is Italian, so I want our customers to discover this beautiful cuisine at our restaurants. I love Vietnamese food, another reason why I live here, and I wish for Vietnamese locals to appreciate Mediterranean cuisine as much as I do theirs. If I succeed in this mission, I’ll be incredibly happy!
My goal is to share my passion for seafood with as many people as I possibly can.