Big Prawn Co. sales director discusses Prix d’ Elite, branding
The Big Prawn Co. has the most nominations of any company in this year’s Seafood Expo Global & Seafood Processing Global Seafood Prix d’Elite competition at seven. In addition to developing innovative branded and own label products for U.K. supermarket chains, the Norfolk, U.K.-based company is expanding its frozen offerings to the European market and is adding a “street food” line for retail and foodservice.
SeafoodSource recently caught up with Craig Harrison, sales director for The Big Prawn Co., to discuss the Seafood Prix d’Elite competition, held on 21 April during the show in Brussels, as well as the company’s growth plans.
Blank: Congratulations on the seven Seafood Prix d’Elite nominations. Tell us about the new products nominated.
Harrison: The competition is the shop window/showroom for the European seafood industry and is judged by a panel of industry experts, so it carries weight in the category. Before Christmas, we launched Crayfish Thermidor Bakes, developed for the Co-Operative Group’s Truly Irresistible range. This was Big Prawn’s first truly ready-to-cook, chilled product. It sold out before Christmas with great consumer feedback. Also before Christmas we introduced Hot Smoked Salmon and Prawn Cocktails with Beetroot Pickle and Scandinavian Sauce, again developed for the Co-Op range. Our two Cheese Topped Shellfish Tartlets have been developed with both retail and foodservice in mind and are frozen. They are very versatile dishes, easy to prepare in the oven, and are very unique in the market.
A big British favorite is the pork pie, a cold-eating picnic staple that is not that healthy. Our seafood version, the Seafood Picnic Pie, is wrapped in a traditional coldwater crust and is made with salmon, whitefish and prawns with roasted red pepper and herbs, held in a wine jelly. The Seafood Pie is coming out around May. Around June, we are launching the Big and Tasty Street Food line. Taking influences from India, we have taken our crayfish tails and infused them with herbs and spices, combining with Cromer crab to make our Kachoris and we also have a traditional crayfish Bhaji recipe. This is ideal for foodservice as well, for snacks, starters and sharing platters.
Blank: How have sales for The Big Prawn Co. grown? Are you expanding your facilities as a result?
Harrison: Our turnover is around £21 million (USD 31.1 million). We have doubled our sales since 2011. We recently expanded our chill store capabilities and installed some new transfer areas within the business. We have got a major expansion plan currently under discussion, which is a two- or three-year plan. We have enough capacity within our current operation to produce to £45 million pounds (USD 66.5 million) within the next two to three years.
Blank: How have your frozen seafood product offerings changed?
Harrison: The business has changed and we have diversified our product range. Previously, we didn’t have any frozen items and now they represent around 20 percent of our turnover [sales]. It’s a heavily branded area – we sit up against much larger companies like Young’s and Bird’s Eye, and we do a little bit of private label for frozen as well.
Blank: Tell us about the rebranding of your branded retail lines.
Harrison: We have been going through a rebranding exercise for the past two years. We have taken it slowly, as we don’t want to confuse or alienate our consumers, which can happen when instant changes happen on the shelf. While the company will remain The Big Prawn Company…we have moved the ‘Big &’ brand front and center and are now presenting a consistent look across chilled and frozen. We have almost finished this process. The proposition is clearly defined with Big & Juicy branding for our natural range and Big & Tasty for added value. Joining the branding will be other targeted variations such as Big & Snack for food-to-go products. While our expertise is certainly concentrated in shellfish, we want the brand to be relevant to consumers should we wish to produce for other categories. The key message for the brand is about consistent quality and great flavor, wrapped up in great value for the money.
Blank: Are you expanding distribution to new countries or types of retailers?
Harrison: We currently have numerous U.K. retailer and foodservice contracts. We now have an extensive frozen business both in the Big & brand, retailer brand and also for supply to retailer fish counters and “mini freezers.” While our product can be found as far afield as the Middle East, we have not yet tapped into the European marketplace, so Brussels is an ideal opportunity to meet new partners. European retailers stock an extended shelf-life product, which is not a particularly big area in the U.K., so Europe would be ideal for us.