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Mixed Seafood: UK Processing Sector Diversifies

UK - A new survey of the UK seafood processing industry, conducted by Seafish, shows a continuing trend towards diversification, with units increasingly processing more than one type of fish.

The survey, which builds upon the previous reviews of the industry undertaken by Seafish in 1996, 2000 and 2004, shows the majority of businesses now process a mix of seafood.

Adam Brown, from Seafish Economics, said: “Following on from previous survey trends, the percentage of these seafood processing units has increased from 40% in 2000 to 58% in 2008. This increase in processing mixed types of fish corresponds with a decreasing proportion of employment in units processing only demersal species, such as haddock.”


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"the industry remains characterised by a large number of small single site businesses and a small number of large multi-site companies"
Adam Brown, Seafish Economics

the industry remains characterised by a large number of small single site businesses and a small number of large multi-site companies Other key findings from the survey were the decrease seen in both the number of seafood processing units and total employment within the industry. The seafood processing industry now provides around 14,700 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs in 479 processing units, indicating a decrease in both the number of processing units and the number employed in the industry.

“There are several factors leading to these results,” said Adam. “A number of sites have ceased trading, several sites are no longer processing fish and a few sites are now operating as seafood traders, rather than processors. We also discovered a number of new seafood processing units that have opened since 2004.

The survey also showed that, in general, the industry remains characterised by a large number of small single site businesses and a small number of large multi-site companies”

“Only 5% of processing units employ more than 100 full time equivalents,” said Adam. “However, these units employ almost half of the total number of processing employees – making them key players in the industry. “

Meanwhile 53% of units employ one to ten FTEs but these sites account for only 10% of total employment in the industry.

The salmon processing industry now provides around 5,200 FTE jobs in 65 processing units, indicating a decrease in terms of the number of processing units but an increase in the total number of FTEs from the 2004 figure of 4,400.

With just under 20% of UK seafood processing units and more than 27% of seafood processing jobs, Humberside is the most significant region for the seafood processing industry. Grampian is the second largest processing region with 17% of the processing units and 23% of the employment total. These proportions are similar to those in the 2004 survey, although the total number of processing units and FTE jobs has decreased in both regions.

The ownership structure of the industry has changed during the last four years with continued consolidation in the industry by large multi site companies.

“The number of seafood processing sites operating as subsidiaries of larger companies has increased,” said Adam. “The number of processing businesses operating as limited companies has remained constant whilst the number of businesses operating as sole traders or partnerships has decreased.”

the Fish Site Editor

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