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Viciunai pushing branded surimi in key markets

The Lithuanian giant targets a turnover of more than €470 million in the 2017 financial year.

The era of low-quality, bulk commodity surimi is over, according to Lithuanian processing giant Viciunai Group.

Speaking to IntraFish at the 2017 Conxemar show in Vigo, Spain, Viciunai Europe Managing Director Rob Schreur said the group's aim is to "convince buyers to stop talking about price" and instead focus on quality.

The group has been more volume-oriented in the past, added Dmitrij Bogatko, regional sales at Viciunai. "But now we're pushing the Vici brand rather than our private label business," he told IntraFish.

This goes for "all our markets," said Schreur.

He highlighted the struggling French market as an example of how low-quality surimi is impacting consumer demand.

"In France, consumption has been going down and that's due to low-quality products. And there's low-quality products in the market because retailers are demanding low prices," Schreur said. "Consumers are getting sick of it."

Bogatko agreed, saying retail prices in France have reached the bottom, putting pressure on the quality of the products.

To turn things around, Viciunai is pushing hard to increase its branded sales.

In Spain, where it operates a processing plant, the group currently fetches the lion's share of its turnover from its private label business.

"We want to change that and we're making specific steps in order to achieve that," Bogatko said. "We're very serious about building our brand in western Europe."

In Germany and Austria, the company already makes around 60 percent of its turnover from the branded business.

He sees further opportunities in Spain, Italy as well as Germany, where surimi "is a niche but growing crazily."

Growth in the United Kingdom, on the other hand, could be hampered by Brexit and devaluation of the British pound, Bogatko said.

Overall, Viciunai is expecting to report a turnover of €470 million ($552.8 million), and "maybe above," depending on how Christmas sales pan out.

"We expect a good year," Schreur said.

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