Coming to America: British heritage shines stateside for Young’s Seafood

For more than 200 years, Grimsby, United Kingdom-based company Young’s Seafood has been diligently forging a brand that could withstand the test of time.

What started out as a whitebait business in 1805 has, two centuries later, transformed into the largest specialist seafood brand in the United Kingdom. Young’s Seafood dominates the U.K.’s USD 1.4 billion (EUR 1.2 billion) fish and chips market, delivering 17.3 percent of all seafood servings comprising the segment, it says. The company is also responsible for the invention of scampi in 1946, according to its website, as well as marketing the very first frozen prawns.

As with most pioneers, new frontiers have long beckoned Young’s Seafood to seek out potential opportunities wherever they may arise, at home and beyond.

“We’ve always had an ambition to take the brand outside of the United Kingdom,” Young’s Seafood Managing Director for Frozen Yvonne Adam told SeafoodSource.

However, Young’s has learned the timing must be right in order to act, particularly when contemplating breaking into completely new international markets. While attending Seafood Expo North America in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., a few years back, the stars seemed to finally align for Young’s Seafood regarding its U.S. aspirations, Adam recalled. That’s when Young’s representatives first met with The Fishin’ Company, a seafood supplier based out of Munhall, Pennsylvania, to seriously discuss the possibility of distributing its British brands across the key North American marketspace.

The partnership between the two companies became official in September 2017, with Young’s Seafood Heritage- and Signature-branded products starting to hit shelves in the United States – with The Fishin’ Company’s help – in January 2018. It was, and remains, an ideal relationship, Adam said.

“We have a joint venture with The Fishin’ Company, they do the distribution of [Young’s] products in the United States. They are a highly-respected [seafood] company with great relationships with consumers,” she said. “It’s been a perfect cultural fit for them to partner with us from a brand point-of-view because they’re predominantly a private-label business, so for them to be working with the U.K.’s number-one brand, I think we’re really doing some exciting things together … developing and bringing brilliant seafood to the U.S. market. They’ve been a great partner for us.”

Currently, Young’s Seafood products are being sold at more than 2,000 distribution points across the United States, Adam said, by many prominent retailers including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Giant, Martin’s, Stop & Shop, Jewel-Osco, Peapod, and Food Lion.

The products available from Young’s in the U.S. include: Wild Caught Cod Fillets in Beer Batter, Wild Caught Haddock Fillets, Flipper Dippers and Crispy Battered Cod and Chips, Wild Caught Chunky Haddock Fillets in Light Crispy Batter, and Wild Caught Chunky Cod Fillet Fingers in Light Tempura Batter. According to Adam, the response to these products has been “really positive.”

“Consumers really enjoy the quality proposition from Young’s, the number one brand in the U.K. Being able to bring that expectation to a completely different U.S. market – we’re not taking that lightly. We’re beginning to understand and drive innovation with things that we’re working on in the U.K. and testing them here and seeing what U.S. consumers like,” she said. “People want to have something that tastes good. Ultimately, however much you spend on your food, if it doesn’t taste good, then you’re not going to want to buy it again. More than anything else, we’re really pleased with the consumer feedback about the taste of the products and we’re really delighted about the expansion in distribution."

One standout product from Young’s Seafood that is doing well among American eaters – and continues to do so around the holidays and during celebrations – is the Crispy Battered 2 Cod Fillets and Chips, which started out as a meal for one until the company dialed into the trend of convenient, communal eating that is now sweeping the United States, Adam said.

“U.S.A. consumers love the crispiness and the quality of the batter, and the unique flavor of that,” she noted. “They love having a meal with the chips inside, so this British Fish and Chips Heritage has worked really well [in the U.S. market].

In America, Young’s has also been committed to providing and promoting pollock in its products. The company is working to convey pollock as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids – but in a different fashion than it is accustomed to in the United Kingdom.

“We’ve also been able to focus on the delivery of pollock,” Adam said. “We’re trying to be transparent and also celebrate the fact that pollock is a good source of omega-3s. There’s different legislation in the U.S. than in the U.K., where omega-3 might be in the name of the product – we might talk about ‘Omega-3 Fish Fingers’ [in the U.K.] – but we have to adapt that to a U.S. legislation point-of-view to be ‘a source of omega-3s,’ rather than have it be in the headline of the product.”

America's affinity for pollock has also been a focus-point for Young's North American efforts in marketing its products.

“We’re celebrating the fact that we’ve got pollock in the pack, and putting that on the packaging as well,” she said.

In July, Young’s was acquired by Malton, United Kingdom-based pork processor Karro Food Group, which has itself been owned by international investor CapVest Partners LLP since March 2017. CapVest previously owned Young’s, but sold the company, alongside the Findus brands, in 2008 for GBP 1.1 billion (USD 1.38 billion, EUR 1.2 billion) to private equity firms Lion Capital, Bain Capital, and HPS Investment Partners.

Young’s Foodservice division recently launched Popcorn Scampi Bites, made with sustainable, hand-peeled scampi from Great Britain and Ireland, along with wild Alaska pollock, in December 2019. The product is being sold in U.K. foodservice channels.

Photo courtesy of Young’s Seafood


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