Kate Cox

Innovation is the next opportunity in seafood

Our CEO Kate Cox was quoted in The Grocer in November, sharing her views on how brands can win market share in the consumer seafood category. Here she expands on those comments:

We've been working with the Norwegian Seafood Council for a number of years to promote Norwegian seafood in the UK, she writes.

Like many other proteins, seafood is a category that is highly commoditised. Currently a few seafood brands make up a small proportion of overall sales, with the rest going to own-label products.

Like many, this category has been influenced by the multiple retailers’ reaction to the rise of the discounters, with pricing and ranging strategies constricted, and a prevalence of offers and multi-buys.

Research we’ve used in our work bringing Norwegian Seafood to the UK clearly demonstrates that there’s room in the market for brands to win unclaimed market share, specifically in Salmon and Cod.

For more than a third of consumers, Salmon doesn’t even exist on the regular dinner and lunch repertoire. Over a half of people questioned said they never ate sushi, and only a third ate cod at least once a week.

The innovation gap

In a bid to fill these spaces, brands are increasingly driving product and marketing innovation. In this way, they are shifting the focus away from the commoditised fight for market share that has typified UK fish isles in recent years, driving value back into the category.

The success of Young’s Funky Fish range, £10m sales in its first year in Asda stores and still growing, indicated a consumer appetite for no-hassle, tasty seafood dishes.

Research tells us that purchase drivers for UK consumers are around quality, freshness, and crucially inspiration; the more we can inspire consumers, the more we can drive purchase frequency.

The big opportunity in the immediate future is for brands to produce high-quality cuts and market them as premium, accessible lunch and dinner options. Crucially, these products must distance themselves from the standard seafood sold in bulk through own-label.

Premium, non-standard cuts

This trend was evident at this year’s Seafood Expo Awards in Belgium, where products featuring highly premium, non- standard cuts picked up a number of the top awards.  

One such product was Salmaraw from Salmon Brands of Norway, a ready-to-eat fresh salmon sashimi kit with sachets of ponzu sauce, sesame seeds and a specially designed eating utensil. It is presented in a unique airtight and leak-proof pack that beautifully displays and preserves the high quality of the salmon.

Another winner was Marine Harvest Belgium’s newly released Duo Norvégien au Four, a naturally healthy combination of cod wrapped in thin slice of salmon, packed in an oven-ready aluminium tray, offering an easy way to serve an elegant and flavourful seafood dish at home.

These products clearly distinguish themselves from standard commoditised own-label offerings. And as brands continue to try and steer the conversation away from price and discounting, we will see this trend grow.

Culinary inspiration

But NPD innovation needs to be matched by marketing innovation. To drive sales and increase consumption frequency, consumer research indicates that brands must stimulate culinary inspiration in their target audience.

For instance, Norwegian Seafood Council sponsorship of the World Sushi Challenge is in its first year. A global competition that pits highly skilled chefs against each other, the Sushi Challenge promotes premium product, showcases inspirational culinary skill, and has the potential to drive real value for the brand.

Category growth will be driven by quick, innovative, easy and tasty meal solutions, emphasising the quality and freshness of ingredients. The global seafood giant Marine Harvest supplies a large proportion of UK seafood, salmon in particular. Increasingly its brands support this trend for culinary inspiration, for instance Harbour Salmon Co., which offers a range of premium cuts, sauces and infusions alongside its Rebel Fish seasoning range.

Where price pressure has been the main factor in retailer discussions in recent years, branded offers and innovative meal solutions represent an opportunity to focus more directly on consumer needs and unique benefits.


Kate Cox is CEO at Bray Leino.

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