Morrisons’ big plans for seafood category


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
August 6, 2012

Morrisons is the U.K.’s fourth largest supermarket chain, with 476 stores throughout the country serving 11.5 million customers per week, and a turnover of more than GBP 17.7 billion (USD 27.7 billion, EUR 22.3 billion). Despite its position it punches well above its weight in the seafood category. Frank Green, head of seafood, told SeafoodSource how the company has achieved this and how it plans to expand its seafood business. 

Holmyard:  The seafood business is very competitive. What enables Morrisons to do so well within this category?

Green:  Every supermarket is looking for a point of difference and we have concentrated on gaining a good name for fresh, seasonal fish, prepared in-store, and now sell more than any other retailer. We are also known as champions of lesser-known species such as pouting, gurnard and dabs and were the first to market species such as Cornish pouting, Cornish albacore tuna and Cornish hake. 

Holmyard:  Where do you source your seafood from?

Green:  We are committed to supporting British seafood as part of a wider policy to only sell British beef, pork, lamb and poultry. All of our own-label fresh and smoked salmon is Scottish Freedom Food accredited, all of our mackerel is British, our fresh trout comes from Yorkshire, and we only sell British scallops. These are really popular and we have captured more than a quarter of the U.K. market in the past six months! 

Holmyard: How do you determine your sustainable buying policy?

Green: We are in the process of updating our policy to make it easy to understand and have employed a new member of staff with this responsibility. In the meantime, all of our counters are Marine Stewardship Council certified, we are active members of Client Earth’s Seafood Sustainability Coalition, we seek fish from Responsible Fishing Scheme vessels, we use the Marine Conservation Society “Fish to Eat” list for advice, and ensure that we only buy fish landed within quota, deemed sustainable or from non-pressured stocks. Our cod and haddock is almost 100 percent line-caught, and we have a 25 percent market share of these key species. 

Holmyard:  Retailers often find fresh fish counters difficult to manage.  What is your approach?

Green:  We make our counters experiential as well as functional. We believe they should be exciting and colourful places to visit, with eye-catching displays. We have redesigned the fixtures and fascia in our new “Stores of the Future” and our refitted stores, which contemporise the look and feel of counters, whilst keeping a traditional fishmonger feel.  In terms of product, we produce a range of fishcakes and other added-value lines such as salmon en-croute, Coquille St. Jacques and kebabs, fresh in store every day. The approach is working well and seafood sales in new and refit stores are growing ahead of our other fresh categories, which bucks the general U.K. trend.

Holmyard: Preparing fish in-store calls for highly skilled staff.  Do you train in-house?

Green: We really value craft skills and employ dedicated trainers to ensure these are maintained. All our fishmongers are put through a variety of courses including a Level 2 vocational qualification (QCV/SVQ) and a 26-week retail skills training program. Last year we won 10 awards at the British Fish Craft Championships! “Store of the Future” fish mongers undertake a one-day masterclass run by Billingsgate Seafood Training School, to upskill them in fish preparation and cookery, and their enhanced knowledge is appreciated by customers. 

Holmyard:  You recently obtained new premises in Grimsby that will be your seafood headquarters. How will this change the way you work in the future?

Green:  The new factory, which opens in September, is the most significant investment in seafood for some years. An in-house facility like this makes us unique in the retail industry and will enable us to process and sell a lot more of our own seafood, and to relaunch the whole seafood category. Our dedicated fish procurement team will be based there and it will be staffed by fully trained fishmongers, to ensure that our key strategy elements of quality and freshness, speed, flexibility, efficiency and value can be met. We see this as delivering great benefits to consumers and believe it will help us to do even better in the fresh and value-added chilled seafood categories.  There are exciting times ahead for fish retail! 

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