Marel poised to ramp up activity in Asia

Currently only 10 percent of the company’s revenue is from the region, despite the fact that 70 percent of the world’s fish is caught there.

Icelandic equipment manufacturer Marel is ramping up its focus on the Asia Pacific region, where it feels there is “enormous scope for growth.”

With currently only 10 percent of the company’s revenue coming from the region, despite the fact 70 percent of the world’s fish is caught in that area, Marel is feeling the need to bolster its presence.

As part of this David Bertelsen, currently international sales director of Marel Fish, will be taking up a new “dual” role, based in Indonesia from the start of next year.

He will become general manager of Marel in southeast Asia and also regional sales manager for the fish division in charge of the Asia Pacific region.

“For me it’s exciting to have the opportunity to go into an area where’s there is such enormous potential and have a clear focus from a senior level in the market,” Bertelsen told IntraFish.

“We’ve been involved in Asia for many, many years and we need to go from a situation we are in now, where we have less than 10 percent of our annual sales in that area, to get it up to some level that reflects the fact that 70 percent of the world’s fish is caught in that area -- there is enormous scope for growth.”

Marel will not only focus on the wild caught fish, but also aquaculture which is clearly prevalent in the region, with big growth in aquaculture in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

And then there are “just enormous resources” in terms of wild catch around Indonesia and out to Australia and New Zealand.

“The growth will be more in the aquaculture side, but for a company like Marel it’s the opportunity to take the wild catch also which has the increasing value and we have to help our customer get value for it.”

According to Bertelsen , part of the challenge Marel has faced in the past, like many Western companies in the sector, is it is primarily making machines for western style consumption.

“The biggest markets for us are North America and Europe, like other companies in the segment, and so we make equipment that suits the needs of western style customers,” he said.

“When we’re addressing markets in Asia we’re currently only really picking up that part of the business which is where there is a similarity in consumption.”

Nowadays, for example, the company sells a lot into markets where there is grading of whole fish, but when it comes to the way people consume in Asia, where it is a lot of small pieces, this is where the company is looking to grow.

“The first stage is to get into the market, assess, develop sales, but absolutely, my personal aim is to see more focus on the innovation side and create products specifically for Asian customers.”

Additionally, Bertelsen said that while Marel is already active in aquaculture markets such as shrimp, tilapia and pangasius, there is still a lot more that can be done there, both in terms of sales and innovation.

In sectors such as shrimp, and pangasius, the processing is still “extremely manual” said Bertelsen .

According to him, there is a lack of trust among many consumers in Asia of seafood suppliers, and many like to see the whole fish when they buy.

“They are less likely to buy something like fillets or portions on a plate or in a ready meal pack and more likely to buy whole fish which means less processing involved.

“So that is something that is a challenge for us and we will work with the processors and the retailers, to come up with new ways to help consumers in Asia eat more fish and in a more processed way.”

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