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UK salmon processor targets continued strong growth

Modern consumer trends as well as higher raw material prices have lifted revenue over the past two years.

UK salmon processor JCS Fish is aiming to post sharp growth for the second consecutive year, helped along by healthier and flexible eating trends, demand for cold smoked and organic products, as well as meal-kit business.

Commercial Manager Jack Coulbeck and his mother, Louise, a director representing different generations at the Grimsby-based company, outlined growth forecasts for the year ahead in a wide-ranging interview with IntraFish.

"We are hoping for a 20 to 25 percent increase," Jack Coulbeck said.

Sales for the financial year ended Aug. 31, 2018 ran to £6.65 million (€7.4 million/$8.3 million).

When the current financial year ends at the end of next month the company expects the figure to have increased nearly 28 percent to £8.5 million (€9.5 million/$10.6 million), underpinned by higher raw material prices with the effects of algal bloom issues having fed into costs.

JCS sources around 85 to 90 percent of the salmon it processes from Scotland. Salmon for organic lines is also bought from Ireland. Small amounts of Norwegian fish is infrequently supplemented by even smaller quantities from Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Price sensitive foodservice

The processor gets the lion's share of its sales from the foodservice sector, while branded products sold into retail represent in the region of 10 percent of turnover, itself a 28 percent increase from last year.

Although organic product sales only account for 5 percent of overall revenue, 35 percent of JCS's BigFish brand sales now come from organic lines, with executives expecting growth will continue.

Organic products with strict rules governing feed types, fish farm stocking densities and antibiotic usage can attract a 30 to 50 percent premium over conventional non-organic whole fish.

Between 70 and 80 percent of the company’s revenue comes from frozen lines, with foodservice accounting for the lions share of the business.

Foodservice is a much more price-orientated business, meaning there has been traditionally less room for organic products in the market.

Outstanding trends

So what trends does the Coulbeck family see in the marketplace?

“We are seeing more people interested in frozen products,” said Jack Coulbeck, adding this was aided by a campaign by frozen foods retailer Iceland underlining the fundamentals of frozen fish.

Because of this type of initiative, consumers are now better educated in his view, understanding that fish on counters may have been frozen twice, compared to just once by JCS.

They increasingly understand sustainability issues and have some knowledge certification programs including organic as retailers widen their range of MSC, ASC and other certified products, he said.

Bringing in a younger generation of family into a traditional enterprise has helped the company adapt to the fast paced email-based nature of modern business culture, Louise Coulbeck said.

“Consumers are also hot on recycling of course there is healthier eating and pescetarianism is becoming more and more popular,” Louise Coulbeck said.

Changing conventions

Meal kits is another area where the JCS is being boosted by changing business conventions, specifically fresh salmon through its supply deal to the Mindful Chef healthy home delivery recipe company for its Big Fish brand favored by younger consumers.

JCS, which processes around 100 metric tons a month of fish and employs 48 full time staff recently unveiled a line of frozen fish cakes including with Thai ingredients and a packaging redesign for BigFish traditionally smoked products.

Besides aiming to stand out more on retailers' shelves, executives see the need to get across more information to consumers about the provenance of the product, processing methods and the brand itself.

"Consumers are only getting more hungry for information and if it's not on the back or the front of the pack they will tend to go somewhere else," Jack Coulbeck said.

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