Seafood Connection forms JV in Italy with Agrofish, acquires Northcoast Seafoods

Published on
July 4, 2022
Urk, The Netherlands-based Seafood Connection has established a joint venture with Agrofish Italia with the goal of repositioning itself in the Italian seafood market.

Urk, The Netherlands-based Seafood Connection has established a joint venture with Agrofish Italia with the goal of repositioning itself in the Italian seafood market.

The Dutch seafood supplier, owned since 2013 by Tokyo, Japan-based seafood conglomerate Maruha Nichiro, said the move to create Seacon Italia was its “next step” in serving the Italian market, which is the largest purchaser of seafood in Europe and which boasts the fourth-highest seafood consumption level in the European Union, according to EUMOFA data.

“With this change … we can offer our Italian customers even better service and direct contact with a leading seafood company in Europe and our parent company Maruha Nichiro, the biggest seafood company in the world,” it said in a press release. “Until now, Seafood Connection was present in Italy through the brokers Omnia and I-Seafood. After a long and pleasant collaboration, it was time for the next step. Especially because the Italian seafood market is key in growing the European business. By expanding into Italy, we will keep on offering more and more seafood products coming from every sea of the world. For example, super-frozen tuna, Yellowtail, shrimp, sea bass, sea bream, and much more. We will of course continue to offer our tried-and-trusted favorites on the Italian market, like sushi items, scampi, octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and pangasius.”

Verona, Italy-based Agrofish is a longtime sales partner of Seafood Connection, with a focus on fresh seafood products. It had previously worked with Maruha Nichiro’s Inlet Seafish and Anova Seafood, which sold its frozen division’s assets to Seafood Connection in 2018.

“Seafood Connection has found a great partner with Agrofish Italia, a company with great local expertise and knowledge of the Italian seafood market,” Seafood Connection said. “We believe in the growing potential of the new combination Seacon Italia and have a positive view on the future together and our combined growing potential.”

As part of the JV, Seafood Connection Retail Business Manager Robin Gallé will become Seacon Italia’s sales director for Italy.

“This is an important step in our strategy for Southern Europe. With Robin Gallé, we bring a capable and experienced Dutch guy in Italy who knows the ins and outs of our company,” Seacon Italia CEO Lub van den Berg said. “Agrofish has proven itself as an experienced seafood partner in the Italian market. And most important is that the culture of Agrofish is very similar to the one of Seafood Connection: reliable, open, and dynamic. We are confident this combination will bring our connection with the Italian customers to the next level.”

In its own press release, Maruha Nichiro said the creation of Seacon italiawill promote sales to the Italian market, the largest consumer of seafood products in Europe, further expand its business in overseas markets, and strengthen distribution and sales of marine products in Europe.”

“The establishment of this new company is a part of the management strategy set out in the medium-term management plan, and will promote the expansion and further growth of seafood supply chain in Europe. Seacon and its group subsidiaries are sole entrance of Maruha Nichiro group seafood supply chain into Europe and has rapidly expanded its presence throughout Europe,” it said.

The announcement follows on the 30 May news that Seafood Connection had acquired Grimsby, U.K.-based Northcoast Seafoods, a specialist in selling shrimp and whitefish into the U.K. retail sector and operator of the Fishmonger’s Favorite, Norco, and Canadian Seafoods brands. It had GBP 148.1 million (USD 178.7 million, EUR 171.7 million) in sales in 2020.

“With innovative sustainable products, it fits perfectly in Seafood Connection’s vision going forward,” Seafood Connection said in a press release, which did not reveal the terms of the sale. “This means that both companies can complement each other in their respectful markets. And with the sourcing power of Seafood Connection’s parent company Maruha Nichiro, both companies hope to grow Northcoast’s ambitions on the UK market. This M&A granted a long-kept wish of Seafood Connection: being present through locally knowledgeable companies and people in all of Europe’s largest seafood markets. And with Seafood Connection’s proven track record on the (retail) market in Europe, Northcoast Seafoods has the potential to create an even stronger position on the U.K. seafood market. We are excited for the growing potential this strategic partnership will bring.”

While Northcoast Seafoods Founder and Owner Fridrik Mar Thorsteinsson will step down as managing director following the acquisition, he will continue to contribute to the company as an advisor and as its procurement director, Seafood Connection CEO Jan Kaptijn said. Seafood Connection will retail Northcoast’s managing director, Adrian Crookes, as well as its commercial director, Christopher Baird, Kaptijn said.

“I am glad to finally have a great partner to make the jump across the North Sea and be more active in the U.K. market,” Kaptijn said. “Of course, our presence doesn’t mean that we’re going to change the company. The same management will stay because I believe they are very able.”

Seafood Connection COO Takeyuki Nakazawa, who acted as a liaison between Maruha Nichiro, Seafood Connection, and Northcoast Seafoods during the sales process, has been appointed as the director of Northcoast.

“Ever since I met the first time with the management of Northcoast Seafoods, I came to the conclusion that Northcoast Seafoods speaks the same language as Seafood Connection and Maruha Nichiro. We are definitely on the same page and share the same business philosophy. Their individual local uniqueness in a big market such as the U.K. made the company very appealing to Maruha Nichiro and Seafood Connection. Their size and influence made it a perfect partner for our all-round geographical expansion strategy into other parts of Europe,” Nakazawa said. “I have high hopes for Northcoast Seafoods and am delighted to be able to invite the company into our family, and myself become a colleague at Northcoast Seafoods as liaison and compliance manager.”

Maruha Nichiro said the acquisition aligns with its medium-term growth plan in Europe.

“The establishment of Seacon Italia, following the acquisition of shares in Northcoast in the U.K. in May 2022, brings Seacon's total number of production and sales bases to eight, keeping its ambition to continue entering other European countries through Maruha Nichiro Group's global network,” Maruha Nichiro said.

Photo courtesy of Seafood Connection  

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