A seafood export dilemma in Scotland

Published on
June 30, 2015

Scotland’s seafood suppliers and processors were recently criticized for exporting too much of their seafood to the United States, Europe and other countries, instead of promoting seafood at home.

“With so much of the fish landed in Scotland being consumed outwith Scotland, more needs to be done to encourage consumption of Scottish fish within Scotland – and it needs to be easily identifiable as Scottish,” said North East MSP Christian Allard in published reports. “Seafish should take the opportunity of setting out their corporate plan to call the tune and ensure that our retailers stock and properly label Scottish fish.”

Scotland exports 80 percent of the seafood it produces at a value of GBP 613 million (USD 964.5 million) exported in 2014 – up 6.6 percent from 2013. Conversely, Scotland imports 80 percent of the seafood it consumes, according to the Scottish Seafood Association.

While seafood marketing executives acknowledge that Scotland traditionally focused on increasing seafood exports, they say the tide is changing.

“Farmed salmon, mackerel and shellfish such as langoustines and brown crab are highly sought after and exported to the likes of the USA, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, with growing interest in Southeast Asia,” said Denise Fraser, public relations manager for Seafish U.K. “U.K. consumer tastes mean there isn’t huge local demand for these products, preferring white fish such as cod and haddock or smaller warm water prawns and tuna.”

“In the U.K., we have taken our eye off the ball in terms of sustaining our local markets and concentrated on the export market,” said John Cox, chairman, chairman of the Scottish Seafood Association. “Historically … the consumer abroad was more adventurous and they recognized the quality of the seafood, so they were prepared to pay a premium price,”

However, after the horsemeat scandal and other food scares, U.K. consumer interest in buying local, high quality food and seafood has grown dramatically. “The question they always have is, ‘Where does my fish come from?’ That certainly raises the profile of domestically-landed seafood, and they are willing to pay the premium price to know where the fish has been landed, right down to the skipper,” Cox said.

To that end, more restaurants are featuring Scottish seafood on their menus. “People will travel and pay that premium price, knowing that it is local, fresh and a value for the money. Up until the last two or three years, there has been a problem with supply and low quotas, but the tide has turned. The North Sea is full of fish.”

Because of increased supply, the industry needs to communicate that “the product is here and is available”, Cox said. “We are also looking to more of the foodservice and retail buyers to not just consider the price, but the fact that there is demand for Scottish seafood, very much in line with demand for Scottish whisky, oat bread and other products.”

Grocery chains that are already promoting Scottish seafood are benefitting, according to Cox. “Retailers like Lidl and Aldi are using the Scottish seafood brand … as well as their own [seafood] brand … and are increasing their market share year after year.”

Contributing Editor



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