Australian seafood gaining stronger foothold in UK through free trade agreement

Ana Nishnianidze, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s (Austrade) trade and investment commissioner for the U.K. and Ireland.
Ana Nishnianidze, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s (Austrade) trade and investment commissioner for the U.K. and Ireland | Photo courtesy of Austrade
6 Min

Australian seafood companies are increasingly targeting the U.K. market following the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, which entered into effect 31 May 2023.

The FTA brought an immediate end to tariffs on many Australian seafood exports, resulting in a “significant, positive impact” on most product categories, with savings realized on both importer and supplier sides, according to Ana Nishnianidze, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s (Austrade) trade and investment commissioner for the U.K. and Ireland.

“What we’ve seen is a lot more interest in sourcing from Australia; it’s become much more competitive in terms of price,” she said.

The number of Australian products available in the U.K. is likely to continue rising, too, as word spreads throughout the market and demand grows among consumers for premium offerings that are a bit out of the ordinary to them, according to Austrade.

Since June of 2023, several Australian products have launched into retail channels. Among early popular products were Austral Fisheries’ Glacier 51 Toothfish in both Selfridges and Whole Foods stores, with the latter retailer also now offering Marine Stewardship Council-certified Fremantle octopus, which is caught in waters around Western Australia using a patented trigger trap.

Another company that’s soon to launch its products into the market is Yarra Valley Caviar, with the company keen to explore retail opportunities for its salmon roe, starting with Harrods.

There has also been a noticeable increase in sales to restaurants, with companies Rockpool and Sexy Fish among those now sourcing toothfish, and the Daisy Green Collection cafe chain putting Australian banana prawns on the menu for a whole year across all of its 16 outlets.

“There are conversations with other restaurants taking place at the moment, and I think we'll see more restaurants taking on more Australian products. We're definitely seeing increasing movement in that space,” Nishnianidze said.

Nishnianidze acknowledged that volumes coming into the U.K. market are still quite modest and also noted that department stores like Selfridges and Harrods are niche and at the top end of the retail market. However, she said one year ago, it would be nearly impossible to buy Australian seafood products in the U.K. Furthermore, with more accessible retailers like Marks & Spencer (M&S) and online grocer Ocado expressing interest in Australian seafood lines, these products could soon be a lot more accessible and readily available, Nishnianidze said.

Inflation and cost of living have continued to be hot topics in the U.K., but Nishnianidze said that certain consumer groups who look for high-quality products haven’t gone away.

“If anything, they’ve probably become a bit more selective about what they want, and that might actually be playing to our strengths because they could be looking for something different and something that's got strong credentials; That's what our products can offer,” she said. “That may be why we haven't seen the negative impacts that others have.”

In this regard, toothfish “continues to steal the limelight,” with plenty of great market feedback, she said. 

“It's just such a unique product. In the past, people have compared it to Chilean sea bass, but its taste, texture, and flavor profile is very different,” Nishnianidze said. “It has also been recognized by some renowned chefs around the world. In Australia, we’re used to being able to go and buy fillets at the supermarkets and cook them at home, and I can't wait for a time when lots of U.K. consumers can do the same; Hopefully, it can enter broader retail soon because it’s a genuinely delicious product.”

Back in Australia, the line of companies eyeing the U.K. market is growing longer, in line with ongoing government and industry endeavors to diversify markets and ensure the country maintains a resilient export strategy. Nishnianidze said the U.K. market is seen as ... 

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