Business Monday

Doral-based Mustad sells fish hooks to the Americas

Juan Gutiérrez, market manager, and Magnus Gunnarsson, Mustad’s vice president for the Americas.
Juan Gutiérrez, market manager, and Magnus Gunnarsson, Mustad’s vice president for the Americas.

“We are the Coca-Cola of fish hooks,” said Magnus Gunnarsson, the Doral-based vice president of Mustad Americas, which oversees the regional business activities of O. Mustad & Son, the Norwegian company that produces and sells the world’s most popular fish hooks.

“If you go to Bass Pro Shops, Walmart or stop at a convenience store on the way to Key West, you’ll find our hooks on sale,” said Gunnarsson, who took over the Americas regional job in 2012 and opened its headquarters in Doral, a strategic location for reaching markets in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Mustad has been making fish hooks for 138 years and sells its products in 160 countries.

The Americas division covers 47 nations, including the U.S. (Mustad’s most important market), Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mustad has about 30 employees in the Miami area and more than 100 at a packing and shipping plant in the Dominican Republic.

Even though Mustad may not a familiar brand to the general public, fisherman across the world use their hooks for recreational, commercial, sport, and traditional fishing in salt and fresh water.

Ole Mustad, a county police sergeant, started the company that bears his name in Gjovik , Norway, in 1877. Building on the experience of another local company that made nails and wire for fences, Mustad began making fish hooks by hand and later developed a machine for producing fish hooks. This revolutionized output of a high-demand product in a nation where fishing was a critical industry and a way of life.

As it expanded, Mustad sent salesmen from Norway to Africa, Latin America and Asia in the late 19th century, visiting cities and towns with horsecarts loaded with merchandise. In some of these places, the word for fish hook became “mustad,” said Gunnarsson, who was born and brought up in Sweden and has been fishing since he was a child.

Mustad began as a family-owned company, but now is a unit of Ard, a private investment firm in Norway. Some branches of the family moved into other areas, such as horseshoes, nails and tools.

Mustad today makes fish hooks, rigging and accessories, but fish hooks represent about 90 percent of the business. The company owns a wire mill in Norway and sends its output to Wuxi, China, where it owns the world’s largest fish hook manufacturing facility. The finished products are shipped in containers to packing plants in different parts of the world (such as the one in the Dominican Republic), where they are then sent to local markets and sold to distributors and large retail chains.

Mustad makes 12,000 models of high-quality fish hooks for every type of fishing. Hooks can range from tiny devices used to catch bait fish (retail cost, about 10 cents) to a massive, $300 hook with a metal chain used for catching Great White sharks.

As part of its work to preserve the environment, Mustad works with marine researchers who catch, tag and release Great Whites to study their habits.

The company also makes some hooks that rust and deteriorate after a certain period of time in salt water so that fish with embedded hooks are less likely to suffer infections and die.

In Latin America, like other markets, “Mustad hooks are No.1,” said Juan David Gutiérrez, Mustad’s market manager. “You can go to any fishing equipment store in the region, and they’ll have Mustad products,” added Gutiérrez, who was born in Colombia and studied business and marketing at the University of Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano and Miami Dade College.

But while about 90 percent of Mustad’s sales in North America are for recreational fishing, it’s the opposite in Latin America – where about 90 percent of sales go to commercial fishing, said Gutiérrez, who started with the company in 2011 as an account executive in sales and marketing.

About 25 percent of the Americas business comes from Latin America and 75 percent from North America.

Mustad does not release financial data but dollar sales for the region rose briskly last year and are expected to increase 10-15 percent in 2015, said Gunnarsson, who worked in a fishing equipment store when he was 12 and, by the time he was 25, had started a fishing tackle business in the U.K.

Mustad faces some competition from fish hook producers in Korea and Japan, but works hard to maintain its leadership position. The company sponsors fishing tournaments, spends time finding out what types of hooks fishermen need and - working with world-champion fisherman - constantly invests in developing new products.

“Fishermen who have caught world-record fish – blue marlin, bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna — use our hooks,” said Gunnarsson. Mustad’s 2015 product catalog carries dozens of endorsements from champion anglers and professional fishermen, many from South Florida.

“There are 50 million anglers in the United States,” Gunnarsson said, and South Florida is an international center for sport and recreational fishing. “This is the place to do business for the entire region.”

Reach the writer at josephmannjr@gmail.com

Mustad Americas

Business: A Norway-based company that manufactures and sells fish hooks, rigging and accessories for recreational, sport, commercial and traditional fishing in 160 countries. Mustad, whose full name is O. Mustad & Son A.S., has a wire mill in Norway, the world’s largest fish hook manufacturing plant in Wuxi, China, and sells 12,000 different hook models to distributors and large retail chains. Doral-based Mustad Americas covers 47 countries, overseeing business in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. The company has a distribution center in Brazil and a packing and shipping plant in the Dominican Republic.

World headquarters: Gjovik, Norway

Americas headquarters: Miami Free Zone, 2305 NW 107th Ave., A-6, Doral. Mustad opened an office in Miami in 1999 and established its regional headquarters in Doral in 2012.

Management: Magnus Gunnarsson, vice president Americas, and Juan David Gutiérrez, market manager

Founded: Using the experience gained by a related company that had been making nails for buildings, horseshoe nails and fencing wire in Norway since 1832, Ole Mustad set up O. Mustad & Son A.S. in Norway in 1877 and produced fish hooks by hand. The company later developed the first fish hook machine.

Employees: 30 in the Miami area and over 100 in the Dominican Republic

Products: Fish hooks, which make up over 90 percent of the company’s business, range from tiny hooks costing 10 cents retail for catching bait fish to a giant, $300 hook with a chain for catching Great White sharks.

Ownership: Originally a family-owned enterprise, Mustad now is a subsidiary of Ard, a private investment firm based in Norway.

Website: www.mustad.no and www.mustad-americas.com

Source: Mustad Americas

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