Benjamin So


Benjamin So


Benjamin is a Hong Kong native and a Kiwi. In 2015 he founded, 178 Degrees, a retailer for high quality, sustainably sourced, New Zealand produce.

The concept was borne out of an idea to take the best of New Zealand and present it to Hong Kong’s discerning clientele. At its core, 178 Degrees is an expression of New Zealand’s heritage as a farming nation, and values itself on its long-standing relationships with its suppliers and deep knowledge and understanding of the products they distribute.

Starting out with just a single product – Pacific oysters – 178 Degrees now offers in their online store over a dozen; including different varieties of meat, seafood and vegetables. Best of all 178 Degrees can say unequivocally that all the seafood that they import come from sustainable farms or fisheries, and some products additionally comply with Seafood Watch and MSC certifications, as a result of customer demand.

Sustainability and responsibly sourced foodstuffs make up a fundamental principle for the way Benjamin carries out his business operations and is a principle that he advocates for vigorously.

“The lesson to be learned is that sustainable seafood is not just about health and environmental choices. It’s also an economically rewarding undertaking, which is great news for Hong Kong where seafood is such an important part of our diet and culture.”

178 Degrees

178 Degrees sources from sustainable farms and fisheries in New Zealand. Some additionally comply with standards set by certification bodies such as Seafood Watch and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to give further reassurance.

178 Degrees deals directly with producers by ways of meeting the people and building a long-standing relationship of trust and partnership. We view this as a necessity, as the concept of sustainability should also be expressed in the way we do business.
To ensure transparency

Such a close collaboration has natural advantages. For one, there is greater transparency. And it means 178 Degrees is able to become an ambassador of the brands we represent, instead of just providing a distribution channel. As a result, we can engage with customers more deeply and share product knowledge with them. It's a gradual process, though, particularly in the consumer market. People are habitually lazy and want quick answers, not necessarily more accurate ones. 

For this reason, many misconceptions persist. My favourite amongst them are "fresh fish is always better" (any sushi chef - yes, even Japanese ones - will tell you their fish is aged to create more flavour) and the peddling of "food miles" as a measure of greenness, which completely ignores the fact that carbon emissions from the transport of food are far outweighed by those generated in the production process.

And we always come across the line that sustainably sourced food is bound to be more expensive. Of course when you try explaining about negative externalities, it's always going to be an uphill battle. So the reality is we need to be patient and chip away over time.

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