There’s a uniquely Midwestern hospitality that you encounter as you approach the Fortune Fish & Gourmet booth at a trade show (even if it’s filtered through an Austrian upbringing; I’m looking at you Chef Martin), and there’s always something to surprise, inspire, and delight as well. From the eponymous seafood to cured meats to a well-curated spread of specialty cheeses, the gourmet specialists bring together a family of brands that evinces a sharp eye, excellent taste, and a well-tuned understanding of its customers’ needs and expectations.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ana Cabral, Vice President & General Manager, to learn more about the company, its gourmet foods division, and the ways in which Fortune Fish & Gourmet has expanded its range and become a go-to source of specialty foods local and far-flung.
“Fortune Fish was founded in 2001 by Sean O’Scannlain and established itself as the premier seafood distributor in the Midwest offering fantastic variety and quality with unbeatable service,” said Ana. “With a vision to become the Midwest’s leading seafood and specialty food distributor, Fortune acquired, in 2012, a Chicago meat and specialty food distributor, JDY Gourmet. The acquisition brought to Fortune’s portfolio products from the finest specialty food producers in the world and a team of experts that helped launch Fortune Gourmet and have kept Fortune on the forefront of food sourcing and innovation.”
Following the integration of JDY, Fortune Fish & Gourmet is able to offer an expansive range of products to its customers—from charcuterie to specialty cheese, confections to condiments. The company is able to do so with a nigh unparalleled commitment to service and a logistical savvy that allowed for seamless distribution throughout the Midwest and U.S.
“Fortune’s greatest strength is its commitment to great service and incredible logistics which has helped the Gourmet division to take artisan foods to a large part of the Midwest with little to no lead time, as a direct connection between customers and producers. Whether these foods are produced in our backyard, like Wisconsin, or in Europe, Fortune is the one stop shop for a large variety of specialty foods,” Ana told me.
And while the company’s prowess as a distributor is important, Ana is quick to point out that it would be all for naught without the brands that it represents.
“Our vendors are the heart of Fortune Fish & Gourmet, and we strive to connect with each brand and team behind it. This connection is what allows Fortune Gourmet to be real brand ambassadors throughout our customer base. We are proud of the family of food artisans we have in our portfolio,” Ana said. “We take particular pride in some of our local partnerships, like the cured meats from Tempesta by Nduja Artisans, from Chicago, and jams and nuts by Quince & Apple/Treat Handmade from Madison, WI. Both are family companies, driven by their desire to bring really tasty, wholesome foods to their customers, sourced responsibly, with traditionalism but also a good amount of innovation and a lot of hard work and passion for the industry. Their geographical proximity allows us to work together often and keep each other’s goals aligned.”
Local vendors are near and dear to Fortune Fish & Gourmet, but the company is also heavily invested in imported brands, and customers looking for authentic offerings from Europe and beyond can take advantage of the company’s extensive stable of imported goods.
“On the other hand, a big highlight of Fortune’s gourmet portfolio is our imported brands,” explained Ana. “Spanish products are the largest part of our imports, and we have built a unique and diverse offering, bridging the gap between what our customers want and what they have access to. It takes many years to select and develop imported lines, but slowly we have been increasing our offerings from other countries like Italy, France, and others, always looking to replicate the responsible sourcing and vendor relationship model that has made us so successful this far.”
Ana tells me that the company continues to look to the horizon, at ways to grow and offer its customers the best service possible and the best products from near and far.
“Our biggest goal everyday is to provide our customers with the best service they can find anywhere, and at the same time give them access to a large range of specialty food products and brands, that fulfill their needs and helps them stay creative and keep their customers engaged,” said Ana. “We hope to continue growing and making even more connections between delicious foods and our chefs and retailers.”
For more dairy, deli, bakery, and specialty food news, keep reading Deli Market News.