UK-based processor New England Seafood International (NESI) is rolling out its fledgling chilled seafood brand into more retailers across the country, as part of a drive to boost its range and marketing.

The new brand, Fish Said Fred, launched in June last year, is a new direction for NESI, which largely specializes in supplying private label fish to the supermarkets.

The experiment already appears to be paying off, with sales of £5 million (€5.9 million/$6.8 million) so far, contributing to a strong financial year.

Initially launching with online delivery service Ocado with four products in June 2020, the brand has since launched into Waitrose, Asda and Tesco, as well as Planet Organic and Whole Foods.

Earlier this month the company announced a further listing with 550 Sainsbury's stores, which will stock five products from the range. Tesco is also expanding its offering from three to five products this month.

The Fish Said Fred range has also expanded since launch to a total of 14 different species, including seabass, seabream, cod, haddock, pollock, and chum salmon.

The brand is also embarking on its debut TV advertising campaign, sponsoring daytime TV's "Steph’s Packed Lunch" on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

Fish Said Fred

Fish Said Fred, a homage to New England Seafood founder Fred Stroyan, was created in 2020 to help alleviate confusion shoppers can experience when buying fish.

The brand was developed based on significant consumer research, Lisa Cowell, head of brand at New England Seafood, told IntraFish.

New England Seafood founder Fred Stroyan, whose name is behind the new brand. Photo: NESI

Cowell said the company's two brands, Fish Said Fred and its premium wild-fish brand, Leap, are demonstrating the role new, properly designed and executed brands can play alongside well-established retailer brands.

“We had high hopes and confidence in the brand, however we are delighted with the performance to date and the support we have received from our key customer partners,” she said.

The trouble with Brits

UK consumers tend to find that cooking fish is far more complex than other proteins, said Cowell, and are looking for inspiration and simple ways to prepare and serve it.

“Ultimately, we focus on getting our offer as right as possible through deep-seated consumer understanding.”

New England Seafood was previously heavily skewed towards private label, something to which it is still very much committed.

“We don’t really see the addition of brands as a change in direction -- more as an additional tool that we and our partners can use to show people how to enjoy fish,” said Cowell.

“We believe that a business that has the consumer insight and communication skills of a branded business with the shared partnership and agility of a private label business will be really well placed to offer a total category solution.”

Fresh start, fresh growth

The expansion in direction follows NESI's acquisition by Alaska Native Corporation Sealaska, a move the company called “a significant milestone in the group's history."

After 29 years of ownership by the original family shareholders, the decision to sell the business to Sealaska marks "the start of an exciting new phase of opportunity and growth," wrote NESI management in the company's latest financial results.

While NESI's management team is unchanged and Stroyan is still very much involved in the business, the acquisition means the company is "enjoying the benefits of being part of a much larger group, as the recent investment in Icemar and AG Seafood shows,” said Cowell.

IceMar, a supplier of Icelandic cod, haddock, lemon sole and plaice to New England Seafood for many years, was acquired by Sealaska in October, bringing a whole array of synergies and efficiencies for both sides, its CEO Gunnar Orlygsson told IntraFish.

“We have a shared ambition to build our presence in existing markets with existing customers -- our close access to the rapidly developing range of Icelandic aquaculture, alongside our wild catch routes will help us to do this -- and we will also pursue opportunities to work with likeminded customers in new markets," Orlygsson said.

To enable these plans, IceMar’s processing facilities in Iceland will be developed further in the near future, said Orlygsson, while NESI’s knowhow “will play a huge role” in how we develop our operations.

“We have a long standing relationship with NESI, which has led us to come together with this acquisition,” he said.

“It’s one thing to be a loyal supplier but a different thing entirely to be a team member or a partner for the long future -- it’s an exciting prospect.”

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