SeaFood Business

MAY 2013

SeaFood Business is the global trusted authority for seafood buyers and sellers. We are the seafood industry's leading trade magazine with more than 30 years of experience. Our coverage is based on the "business" of buying and selling seafood.

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Global Retail Photo courtesy of Sainsbury's Retailers say U.K. consumers could turn to more seafood or unprocessed proteins. Hope in horsegate? The European meat crisis could spark growth for the seafood category By Jason Holland W hen news broke in January that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland had found traces of horse DNA in batches of beef burgers being sold in Ireland and the United Kingdom, it was thought to be no more than an embarrassing but isolated mistake in a single supply chain. Nobody saw the pan-European scandal that would quickly ensue, 38 SeaFood Business May 2013 dragging in dozens of retailers, manufacturers and foodservice operators. In line with the largescale panic testing now in place, new horse meattainted discoveries are being found on an almost daily basis across Europe and beyond, and for the time being it's impossible for authorities to ascertain exactly how far the fraud goes. Nevertheless, many consumers across Europe, Scandinavia and Russia are thinking twice before putting processed meat products and ready-to-eat meals containing meat in their shopping baskets. "Horsegate," as it is now widely referred, has been a welcome boon for fresh meat sales at traditional independent butchers as well as at unafected retailers like Sainsbury's, which reports a 3.1 percent rise in samestore sales for the 10 weeks through Mar. 16. "I think most customers are quite aware that a good number of retailers have not had horse meat in their food and [those stores] have been rewarded with some extra business," says Justin King, Sainsbury's chief executive. "Tere has been a shift toward protein being bought that is unprocessed so there's more steak and chicken breasts being bought and less ready meals and mince. Clearly frozen products have taken a very signifcant hit as [that is] where a lot of the horse meat has been found and [so there has been] a shift into fresh. Our fresh business is performing very strongly," he says. But what about the seafood category; shouldn't fsh sales also be benefting from the scandal? Perhaps so, says Mike Coupe, group commercial director at Sainsbury's. "Te initial evidence will support that other non-red meat categories have probably done a little bit better on the back of the horse meat [problem], although the other trend is toward primary protein products in their raw state rather than their processed state," says Coupe. "Like all these things there is a direction of travel, and I think seafood is an opportunity within our business and in the U.K. as a whole." But Coupe also concedes that growing seafood sales remains a challenge because customers don't always understand what they should be doing with the products. "Seafood is difcult; it's certainly something we work very hard at, training our colleagues on our fsh counters to make sure they are able to talk to customers about how they could use and cook the products. We do a lot of work online as well. Tat's probably the biggest and most signifcant challenge," he says. Nevertheless, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) believes Horsegate should be used to increase the demand for Scottish seafood. A switch to fsh could lift market prices out of their current slump, which has been a growing concern for the entire U.K. fshing industry this year. "With the horse meat scandal and other food-scare stories being prominent in the media at the moment, now is the time to expend every available efort in promoting Scottish seafood," says Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the SFF. "Scottish fsh is an extremely high-quality food product that has a low carbon footprint and is healthy to eat. Our resounding message to consumers is to demand from retailers and restaurants more Scottish fsh," says Armstrong. Shifting habits As one of the frst markets to fall foul to Horsegate, the United Kingdom has had time to assess the fallout from the scandal and it is confrmed that shopper confdence has taken a big hit. According to a poll conducted by the consumer group Visit us online at

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