While Grimsby is already undoubtedly the seafood hub of the UK, a new initiative was launched last year to put Grimsby firmly on the global seafood map by promoting the local seafood industry and creating a brand that equates Grimsby with quality and sustainability.

Grimsby and the wider Humber region in the northeast of England is home to 70 seafood processing companies employing 6,000 people, and it is out of this fragmented network that the idea behind a collaborative cluster was initiated.

While all the companies are competing, their proximity also creates opportunities across the supply chain, in terms of logistics, storage and communication.

The idea behind the initiative -- Made Great in Grimsby -- was borne from discussions between Seafox Management Consultants' Simon Dwyer and Mike Hryckowian, a board member of Grimsby Fish Merchants Association (FMA) and general manager of fishmeal company Pelagia.

Dwyer now manages and promotes the brand by supporting its members with advice, information and events.

“Grimsby dock and all the seafood companies operating here is like a big jigsaw where all pieces fit,” chairman of FMA Mike Woods told IntraFish.

The biggest companies in Grimsby include Young’s Seafood, Morrisons, Hilton Seafoods, New England Seafood International and Flatfish, which are followed by several mid-sized companies and a host of smaller, often family-run, companies. In all, 50 companies have become members of the board supporting the branding initiative.

Funding to boost innovation, green initiatives

Last week, it was announced that £1.2 million (€1.4 million/$1.6 million) had been awarded to fund key workforce development projects in Northeast Lincolnshire, with the Grimsby seafood sector set to receive £433,510 (€516,337/$584,761) of this amount.

The central government funding is aimed at boosting job prospects and opportunities, while making Grimsby’s key sector more attractive and modern.

“The money will allow smaller businesses to be more competitive on innovation, cutting emissions and new product development,” Dwyer told IntraFish.

“Grimsby seafood companies will also receive business growth advice and grants to purchase necessary equipment towards these objectives."

Mike Hryckowian, general manager of Grimsby fishmeal company Pelagia, and Mike Woods, Fish Merchant Association (FMA) chair, are both ambassadors of the Made Great in Grimsby brand. They hope that all who use the logo can benefit from increased sales and that it can help bring more employment opportunities to the town. Photo: Hanna Gezelius

Further investments are being worked on and Made Great in Grimsby members held a meeting earlier this month with the UK government’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to assess future funding needs.

“We are at the start of our journey to improve local seafood businesses, and if we have the opportunity to make things better, we want to try,” Dwyer said.

The brand also acts as a social enterprise, and it is keen to reach unemployed people to offer life skills training. To this effect, it is working closely with local charity CatZero, supported by ex-CEO of Young’s Seafood Wynne Griffiths.

How do you market a town?

The idea behind the cluster is to support seafood businesses and help them grow. Indirectly, the trademarked label could also boost revenues coming into the area, as the label gets increasingly known internationally and becomes a well-recognized label for quality and sustainability.

Some companies -- both domestic and international -- have already started to use the Made Great in Grimsby brand on their packaging. Alfred Enderby, Pelagia, Moorcroft Seafoods, Regal Fish and Chapman's Seafood all carry the logo.

The name is a play on words referring to Grimsby’s traditional name, "Great Grimsby."

“It’s a unique project and probably one which I don’t think has been done elsewhere,” Dwyer said.

To date, the label is used by the local football club, and the town’s culture exhibition and a local festival.

Having no set precedent for a project like this creates obvious challenges but also opportunities.

“There are several options, and I don’t know what’s next for Made Great in Grimsby,” Dwyer said.

Grimsby-based companies process several species, with a focus on salmon, cod, haddock and shrimp. The Grimsby Fish Market is open five days a week, mainly taking deliveries from Norway and Iceland, and the town has the largest cold-storage footprint in Europe.