Seafood Grimsby and Humber Alliance building on pandemic gains in UK seafood interest
For a port that no longer lands fish, Grimsby has – perhaps surprisingly – kept a name for itself as the seafood processing capital of England.
Around 70 seafood businesses are situated in and around the town, processing seafood for most of the major U.K. retailers and foodservice organizations – one third of all seafood consumed in the U.K. originates in Grimsby. Many are significant importers and exporters, bringing in more than 30 species from 40 different countries.
The Seafood Grimsby and Humber Alliance represents the region’s seafood and trading processing cluster, which is composed of around 70 companies with more than 5,500 employees and that together support a further 10,000 jobs along the value chain.
Seafox Management Consultants CEO Simon Dwyer, who manages the group’s activities, said it is dedicated to sustaining a strongly performing seafood industry in the region. The alliance’s board includes CEOs of high-profile companies such as Hilton Seafood, New England Seafood, Andrew Marr International, and Young’s Seafood; as well as the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association, which represents small- and medium- sized companies.
In May 2021, the Seafood Grimsby and Humber Alliance launched “Made Great in Grimsby,” an effort to ensure the sector’s full return following the strict lockdowns of the peak of the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign was launched to “raise awareness of the thousands of fish and seafood products produced daily in Grimsby,” Dwyer said.
“Trade has continued to thrive since restrictions eased, and this is helped in part by the closing of many supermarket counters. The increased familiarity and confidence of consumers in purchasing seafood online is also a factor,” Seafox Management Consultants CEO Simon Dwyer told SeafoodSource.
Dwyer said many of the smaller businesses his organization represents actually thrived during the pandemic.
“Grimsby also has 100 mobile fishmongers and more fishmonger shops per capita than anywhere else in the U.K. Many of these sell online and their businesses flourished during the lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns of the past two years,” he said.
To further support Grimsby’s seafood sector, the organization launched online cook-alongs last year on Instagram, hosted by The Lincolnshire Chef Patron and Director Steven Bennett. The initiative was linked to the Seafish Industry’s “Love Seafood” campaign. Launched in October 2020, Love Seafood aims to reframe Britain’s view of seafood and encourage U.K. consumers to eat more fish and shellfish through marketing activities and by providing seafood businesses with tools to communicate directly with consumers.
“We’re hard at work creating a powerful collaboration with the whole food industry to create a globally important U.K. food valley to promote us as the U.K. capital of food, to attract investment and collaboration in innovation and automation, and offer green, sustainable, healthy growth,” Dwyer said.
At the recent annual general meeting of the association, Young’s Seafood CEO Simon Smith, who is also the alliance’s current board chair, said in 2022 the group will seek further improvements in local skills and research capacity through a training and skills initiative it formed in 2021 with the National Centre for Food Manufacturing. Significant regional and national grant funding has been secured to further that partnership and others designed to improve local employment opportunities and enhance the industry’s innovative capabilities, Smith said.
“We made great strides with all our key objectives last year, including the improvement of micro-biology laboratory testing services through Eurofins, and speciation testing, which analyzes the DNA of fish to guard against fraudulent or accidental inclusion of mislabelled species in fishery products,” Smith said.
Other areas of focus for the Seafood Grimsby and Humber Alliance in 2022 will be on green energy and carbon reduction, plus monitoring of trade-related compliance and regulation issues, particularly related to veterinary health checks and the growing complexity of export health certificates for the E.U., Smith said.
According to Dwyer, the organization will also aim to tighten partnerships with the Fishmongers’ Company and Seafish Industry Authority, which he said could add further value with their reach at national level and insight into domestic, import, and export issues. And a link has been made with the Iceland Ocean Cluster, a networking initiative with the goal of enabling a circular economy model to thrive in the seafood sector. It’s a model Dwyer aspires to emulate in Grimsby, and he said he’s already established research links made with Matis in Iceland and Sintef in Norway.
“There is much work to be done and many different strands to follow, but I believe there is an exciting and innovative future for the seafood industry in Grimsby,” Dwyer said.
Photo courtesy of Greater Lincolnshire LEP