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Espersen CEO Klaus Nielsen: 'Less fish, stronger demand'

Political instability, fair distribution of margins in the value chain and automation are all on the agenda for the European whitefish giant.

Company profile: A. Espersen

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Balancing the impact of inflated whitefish prices is a major concern for Denmark-based Espersen going into the new year, with the unusual political climate driving the business to be faster acting and ready for change, CEO Klaus Nielsen tells IntraFish.

What were the three most significant developments for your business in 2018?

The most significant developments for our business has obviously been the huge inflation on our main species: cod, haddock and plaice. This has a big impact on our financial performance and we are fighting to claw back a fair distribution of income in the value chain. It is easier with some than others.

Another very significant development for Espersen has been the completion of the transfer of the production -- lines and products --from our Fredericia plant in Denmark to the acquired Royal Greenland plant in Poland. This has been a major project within Espersen, and I must say, done on time and within budget.

Thirdly we have started a journey towards more automization in our filleting operations which so far are showing very promising results.

Looking ahead, what will be the three most important developments for the seafood industry in 2019?

For the seafood industry the developments for 2019 will look a lot like 2018 – less fish available for a continued stronger demand, which emphasizes the need for a close collaboration with our partners to secure a fair distribution in the value chain.

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The biggest challenge might be the new political uncertainty -- many of the trade deals are at best not terminated. Whatever we like or not we are now living in a world with a lot more uncertainty than we have been used for decades and it is probably going to be the new normal for a while. It is putting an extra level of demand on our organization.

What changes and developments do you expect your business to undergo in 2019?

In 2019 for Espersen the most important things will be to secure a fair distribution across the value chain – we operate a marginal business already, so we must claw back all the lost margins for 2018 so not only the processor carries the risk. At the same time we are using our financial strength to mitigate further inflation on our raw material best possible.

We must also utilize the benefits of having a very competitive and up to date production platform in Europe now, hence we have the ambition of gaining market share in the European market investing more in marketing and innovation.

On top of these “internal” things that we somehow can control, it will be extremely important to be agile and proactive when it comes to the political uncertainty – we must be ready to act.

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