At Red’s Best, QR code technology and fishing traditions go together

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On a wintry February morning, Jared Auerbach, founder and CEO of Red’s Best, drove to the docks in Cape Cod to meet Beau Gribbin, a Massachusetts native, third-generation fisher, and captain of The Glutton. While waiting for Jared, Beau and his crew warmed up with coffee after a long night of shucking scallops on their way back from Stellwagen Bank.

Once there, Jared helped the crew load their catch into his truck. He then drove it to the Red’s Best facility, where the catch was processed, packaged and flash-frozen, ready to be delivered around the world.

Jared Auerbach, Red's Best
Jared Auerbach wakes up before dawn to meet fishermen like Beau Gribbin on the docks.

While his team of drivers usually handles this part of the business, Jared still likes to show up now and then to chat with the fishermen and hear what’s on their minds. After all, the success of his businesses is tied to theirs.  

Red’s Best is grounded in respect for these personal connections, and the business has embraced QR code technology to create new connections — this time between consumers and the hundreds of independent fishermen like Beau who catch fresh seafood.

“We don’t always think about where our food comes from,” said Jared. “I believe technology can help us connect with our food and appreciate how it came to us.” 

Embracing technology to connect with customers

With every order from Red’s Best, customers can use their phone to scan a QR code on the packaging to learn about one of the fishermen who contributed to the catch of that species. “It’s one way to connect the consumer with the fishermen who work so hard to feed us,” said Jared, whose business created the proprietary traceability technology and uses it alongside PayPal QR Codes to process payments.

Atlantic Salmon, Red's Best
Using Red’s Best proprietary QR technology, customers can see the stories behind their seafood.

The tracking technology has created genuine connections between consumers and independent family fishermen like Beau.

“A few years ago, a woman in New Jersey bought my scallops and scanned the code,” Beau said. “Suddenly, we were exchanging Facebook messages about how she was serving the scallops for a dinner party that night. I don't think we would have ever made eye contact if we were just walking down the street, but we developed a connection over seafood.”

Being able to trace the seafood on one’s plate directly to one of the boats that caught it does more than foster unlikely interactions. It also helps keep fisheries healthy and prevents illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. “If you work at Red's Best, you care about protecting our oceans,” said Jared. “I take pride in following the regulations that were created to ensure we are harvesting the ocean at a sustainable level. It’s something to celebrate.”

Founding — and growing — Red’s Best

Jared is no stranger to the trials and triumphs of fishing. He spent his post-college years as an apprentice on fishing boats in Alaska and was inspired by the grit and charm of life on the sea. He admired how independent fishermen constantly adapt to challenges.

“Most people don’t realize that fishing is about more than navigating the ocean and harvesting seafood — although that alone can change day-to-day,” Jared said. “These men and women also have to be plumbers, electricians, welders, and businesspeople out on their boats. They’re jacks-of-all-trades that are constantly adjusting to their circumstances.”

The fishermen inspired Jared to open Red’s Best in 2008. He started working out of the back of a refrigerated truck and slowly fostered relationships with fishermen up and down the East Coast. A decade later, the business processes and distributes millions of pounds of wholesale seafood around the world and has grown to include a market and eatery at the Boston Public Market as well as an online store.

Adapting to a changing market and making seafood a home cooking staple

Atlantic Salmon, Red's Best
At the Boston Public Market location, customers buy everything from raw seafood
to cook for dinner that night to grab-and-go sandwiches, soups, and salads.

In 2020, Jared found himself facing a new challenge. With many of his biggest clients temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he returned to a lesson he learned at sea: how to quickly adjust to unpredictable situations. In this case, that meant adapting to reach more consumers directly to make up for the loss in wholesale business. 

He invested in high-tech “super-freezers” to freeze seafood soon after it arrives at the dock, ensuring it stays fresh for global deliveries. “We might not be able to go to restaurants, but people still want to eat high-quality seafood, and not just on special occasions,” said Jared. His goal has been to bring seafood to home cooks multiple nights a week.

This equipment has also allowed Red’s Best to sell sushi-making kits, an increasingly popular product during the pandemic as people look for new meals to master at home. Jared’s own family uses the kits for a weekly sushi night.

Atlantic Salmon, Red's Best
With PayPal QR Codes, customers at Boston Public Market can simply “wave their
phone in front of the code and be on their way.

Another one of Jared’s adaptations was implementing PayPal QR Codes1 at the Red’s Best store in Boston Public Market. The location had to close for nearly six months from March through September due to the pandemic, and when it reopened, Jared learned his customers were uncomfortable exchanging cash or cards. To avoid making physical contact, some were even shouting their credit card information to the cashier in the middle of the market, he said. At a time when every sale counted, he wanted to remove any barriers to purchasing.

“We pride ourselves on creating a personal connection with our customers,” said Jared, who implemented PayPal QR Codes in October after years of accepting PayPal as a payment option at the Red’s Best’s online store. “We want them to focus on talking with our staff about what fish they should have for dinner that night — not worry about how they’re going to pay.” As Jared explained, customers can now simply “wave their phone in front of the code and are on their way.”

Using technology to help preserve traditions

Atlantic Salmon, Red's Best
Jared hopes to connect home chefs to quality, sustainable seafood.

Whether it’s through pioneering methods to deliver fresh seafood or PayPal QR Codes, Jared is determined to continue his mission to support independent fishermen while connecting them with consumers. With Red’s Best’s approach to technology, fishermen like Beau can sustain their traditions and lifestyles, strengthen their businesses, and pass down a love of the seafood industry to future generations.

“This commute is about as good as it gets,” said Beau, sitting comfortably behind the steering wheel of his boat and gesturing to his view of the sun setting on Cape Cod. He hopes to pass his love of fishing and the seafood industry down to his children and grandchildren, continuing the Gribbin family tradition. “What Red’s Best does is put this experience — this connection — on your plate.”

1Merchant and Customer must have the PayPal app and account to use PayPal QR Code

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