He explained that food inflation is currently at its lowest for eight years, that grocery sales continue to fall as price wars rage, and that this situation seems to be here to stay.
“It’s a very difficult marketplace, with the major retailers announcing job losses, discounters rapidly gaining market share, and the recent year on year growth in UK retail fish consumption beginning to plateau. In the food service market, casual eating out is now the dominant sector,” said Jim.
In examining the challenge of change, he explained that the entire supply chain is coming under pressure.
“Under-performing lines are quickly delisted, so producers and processors need to provide the right products and the right format for their chosen market,” he said. “The lack of inflation is making it difficult to justify price increases, and to reduce costs, waste utilisation is coming under scrutiny.”
In the foodservice market, where eating out is the new ‘normal’, the top end of the market remains protected by high earners, but national chains offering discounted meals, ‘early dining’ pre-theatre menus and fast food chains are faring better than min-range restaurants.
Market research undertaken recently by Seafood Scotland found that quality and taste were top of diners list of priorities when eating out, with price second and deals and promotions coming in third place.
Jim Gourley advised his audience that opportunities do exist, but that quality, service and price were the vital factors in determining success or failure.
“There are opportunities to build on the positives about seafood, related to freshness, health, value, taste, convenience and availability, and to help reverse the overall decline of UK fish consumption by encouraging young people to eat more fish, and removing the fear factor for all ages,” he said.
“Shellfish offers many menu solutions as a starter, a main course or a snack, and your marketing effort could include suggestions for use.”
Export offers exciting and larger prospects for selling shellfish, but Jim urged caution when tackling new markets, stressing the need to do some extensive homework beforehand and to understand the administration required.
“Develop an export strategy in-line with Scotland Food & Drink’s export plan for the food and drink industry, seek assistance from one of the large organisations such as Seafood Scotland, Scotland Food & Drink and Scottish Development International, join trade missions, create a hub with suitable partners, or sell on the back of salmon, which is Scotland’s biggest food export,” he said.
Nick Lake, CEO of the Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers thanked Jim for his thought provoking presentation on the markets for Scottish shellfish.
“It seems that we have been successful in penetrating certain sectors of the market but there is obviously a deal of work still to do! We will be working with Scottish Government and Seafood Scotland over the coming months to discuss the production targets identified for industry and to consider these in relation to the marketplace.”