Seafood Summit: Q&A with Findus France

Editor’s note: SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Lindsey Partos and SeaFood Business Associate Editor James Wright are in Paris this week covering the Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit.

In an example of industry pushing sustainability upstream, frozen fish firm Findus France on Monday articulated a 10-point “principles” structure across the company. Ultimately, said the fish finger maker, a seafood company without raw material does not make sound business sense.

In 2002, Findus France decided to move toward 100 percent sustainable sourcing. By 2007, the firm had established the 10 principles that now govern their sourcing policy and are integrated into its business model.

SeafoodSource caught up with Matthieu Lambeaux, managing director Findus France, at this week’s Seafood Choices Alliance Seafood Summit in Paris.

Partos: How did Findus implement its 10-point sourcing charter?
Our vision guarantees that the fish is sourced from a sustainable source. All species are investigated about every six months, although vigilance is continuous. We have a traffic light system to analyze fish suppliers. If red, then we opt to stop supplies or we work with the suppliers, in a collaborative effort, to improve the source. We have internal and external auditors we work with, and are very proactive in looking at what the fisheries are doing.

What about the cost of sustainability?
Sustainably sourced fish could cost between 20 to 40 percent more, but we’ve done this over time. We used to buy using an opportunistic method, but now we’re not looking for the cheapest option.

How widely does Findus use the MSC certification scheme?
France Findus has 30 percent of MSC label market share, 55 percent in the UK, 70 percent in Norway, and 45 percent in Sweden. But MSC doesn’t address aquaculture, and we do have it in our system.

What advice would you give to businesses facing the challenge of sustainable sourcing?
You must put sustainability at the core of your strategy, because the implications are huge and you have to be clear about what your brand stands for. I am optimistic the industry is moving fast to find solutions to the current challenges. The one thing for which I, we, have limited insight is the impact of global warming, and how to stop it.
How are you using the brand to deliver the sustainability message?
The brand allows us to drive awareness to the consumer. In terms of positioning we have placed our “Fish for life” message on packs in the UK, and “Respect des ressources marines” in France. We have a high growth business. In the last six months in France, the fish finger — croustibat — product sales have grown by 22 percent, while our competitor has declined by 4 percent.

It is a reality that the topic of sustainability is increasingly present in the media, and there is now an unstoppable wave of consumer awareness that is picking up pace. Findus is in a strong position, and we have the legitimacy to engage with the consumer on sustainable sourcing. In three years time the make-up of the French consumer will have changed vis-à-vis fish, and we will be there.

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