Golden chance to win over new customers
A SEAFOOD retailing expert has described Morrisons' Grimsby manufacturing venture as a "golden opportunity" to win market share from competing supermarkets.
Richard Ford, deputy fresh foods editor at retail trade magazine The Grocer, specialises in fish, to the extent that he was a guest speaker at the 2011 Humber Seafood Summit.
Yesterday marked a first full week of production at the Europarc base, and speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Ford said: "This represents a golden opportunity for Morrisons to win new customers in the fish category.
"We have had Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall put fish on the radar, and with the Common Fisheries Policy also still in the process of being finalised, I think fish is on the radar more than it has been before. That means that being able to say you buy the fish from the market, or even the boat itself, is a fantastic opportunity to garner the trust of the consumers at a time when customers care about traceability and sustainability of fish.
"I do think it gives them a massive point of difference over other retailers, as they essentially get a blank canvass. They are cutting back on suppliers because they now want to have control of the fish supply chain, which allows them to do all sorts of things. They need to seize the opportunity."
While the wet fish counter is a start, Mr Ford sees big opportunity with the second phase, as well as the shell fish element to be introduced just prior to Christmas season.
"The first stage is up and running, but there is a real need to pick up on the added value part, sooner rather than later," he said. "That is where they are going to make the margins and also where the activity is. Birds Eye's Baked to Perfection range is a frozen product that has helped to weather the recession and has worked, and another Grimsby-based company, Seachill, has done very well with The Saucy Fish Co. Both products increase consumer confidence about what can be done with fish, how unfussy it is and how tasty it can be. Morrisons really need to grab this."
Looking at the wider picture however, he acknowledged there will be keen interest, but doesn't see a rush to follow suit, which could have sparked bidding wars for precious facilities in North East Lincolnshire.
"Other supermarkets are watching with interest, but I don't see other supermarkets buying out fish factories. To suddenly get in to vertical integration in a big way would require a large financial investment.
"Morrisons already had experience of managing farming, and synergies can carry across. It wouldn't be as easy for the others. They have their own unique selling points, but they will be watching with great interest, seeing some of the stuff Morrisons is bringing out and the prices they are set at as well.
"One factor we could see is cheaper prices, but then again they have to set that against a massive financial investment they have made in the site."