Sector Trend Analysis – Fish and seafood trends in the United Kingdom

September 2018

Executive summary

Through a rigorous analysis the United Kingdom (UK) represents an ideal opportunity for Canadian fish and seafood exporters. However since 2015, the United Kingdom's fish and seafood imports from Canada have significantly decreased by 40%. The increase of import prices to the UK has been said to be as a result of the June 2016 "Brexit" referendum, where the UK decided to leave the European Union (EU). Promoting fish and seafood as a quick, easy and healthy balanced meal is an essential trend to boost overall demand. In 2019, it is forecasted that the total consumption of fish and seafood per capita will begin to rise about 1.8%, with an increase in fresh or chilled packaged fish and seafood consumption, and a continued steady consumption of frozen packaged alternatives.

The United Kingdom is the tenth-largest fish and seafood importer in the world and the sixth market in the EU. The United Kingdom fish and seafood import market was valued at US$4.3 billion in 2017, a decrease of 0.8% from 2016 and a decrease of 4% from 2013. The United Kingdom import suppliers are quite diversified, with fish and seafood products imported from 102 different countries. The United Kingdom's top suppliers in 2017 were Iceland (8.2%), Denmark (6.7%), China (6.5%), Faroe Islands (6.3%), and Germany (6.0%).

In 2017, the United Kingdom's top five commodities of fish and seafood imports included prepared/preserved tunas, skipjack and Atlantic bonito (US$511 million), frozen shrimp and prawns (US$465 million), frozen fillets of cod (US$439 million), fresh or chilled Atlantic salmon (US$424 million), and prepared/preserved shrimps and prawns, not in airtight containers (US$294 million).

Imports from Canada were valued at US$141.3 million and Canada was the sixth non-EU supplier of fish and seafood in 2017. The top seafood product imported from Canada to the United Kingdom was prepared/preserved shrimps and prawns, not in airtight containers (US$92.5 million).

Canadian performance

Canada was the eleventh-largest overall supplier of fish and seafood to the United Kingdom (UK), with sales of US$141.3 million in 2017. Canada is also the sixth non-European Union (non-EU) supplier to the UK. This represents a decrease of total imports of approximately 40% from 2015. In turn, the top five commodities listed below resulted in a decrease of imports, at the exception of live/fresh/chilled lobsters and frozen fillets of cod which have experienced a slight growth over the last three years.

While Canadian fish and seafood is perceived favourably, the total volume of imports is falling within the United Kingdom due to the high prices it commands, relative to the competitors. Local competition from northern European suppliers continue to affect Canadian supply, but the implementation of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), is expected to help fill key EU opportunities including frozen and packaged food. Most of the tariffs will be eliminated gradually within three, five, or seven years. See the chapter-by-chapter guide to the key provisions of the Agreement. The fish and seafood industry has been a key export for Canada to the UK.

Another key factor which seems to have had negative ramifications on the fish and seafood sector's import prices and tight supplies within the UK, has been due to the result of the "British exit" (Brexit) referendum. The decision made by the UK on June 23, 2016 to leave the EU led to a 20% devaluation of the Great Britain Pound (£GBP), thereby affecting the exchange rate and making imports more expensive. In addition, Canada's department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) announcement to introduce a quota for the 2017/18 fishing season of coldwater shrimp, one of the country's key exports to the UK, has also impacted the industry. The introduction of this total allowable catch (TAC) quota for northern shrimp fishing, is said to result in a dramatic fall in biomass by 25%, cutting the quota in area six by 62% year-on-year, to 10,400 metric tons. For more information read DFO Announces.

The United Kingdom was Canada's twenty-second most important market for fish and seafood, whereby in 2017 Canada imported approximately 0.5% of their fish and seafood imports from the UK. Canadian import suppliers are quite diversified, with fish and seafood products imported from 147 different countries. Canada's top suppliers in 2017 were the United States (33.7%), China (14.3%), Thailand (8.9%), Vietnam (7.1%), and India (5.0%). (Global Trade Tracker, 2017).

United Kingdom's top five fish and seafood imports from Canada, 2015-2017, US$
Commodity HS6 Description United States dollars Share of total imports (%) Change (%) 2017/2015
2015 2016 2017 2015 2016 2017
160521 Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, not in airtight containers (excluding smoked) 151,965,904 97,205,775 92,531,887 64.1 62.4 65.5 −4.8
030632* / 030622 Live, fresh or chilled lobsters 13,489,765 13,320,723 14,259,470 7.3 8.6 10.1 7.1
160411 Prepared or preserved salmon, whole or in pieces (excluding minced) 17,335,445 11,415,473 9,142,043 5.7 7.3 6.5 −19.9
030722* / 030729 Frozen scallops, even in shell 5,010,282 6,050,292 4,966,470 2.1 3.9 3.5 −17.9
030471 Frozen fillets of cod 3,791,106 4,269,617 4,573,772 1.6 2.7 3.2 7.1
Total fish and seafood imports from Canada 237,081,725 155,884,278 141,306,815 80.8 84.9 88.8 40.4

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.

*: Comparable HS6 commodity codes used in 2015 and 2016 statistics

By the numbers

Top ten suppliers of fish and seafood to the United Kingdom and top imported products in 2017, US$ (based on fish and seafood's import data)
Rank Country Total import value Top import commodity supplied Value of top commodity
World 4,357,820,614 Prepared/preserved tuna/skipjack/Atlantic bonito 511,216,553
1 Iceland 356,996,463 Frozen fillets of cod 117,329,509
2 Denmark 292,580,890 Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, in airtight container (excluding smoked) 44,097,724
3 China 281,321,465 Frozen fillets of cod 111,955,515
4 Faroe Islands 273,324,920 Fresh/chilled Atlantic salmon, Danube salmon 179,515,248
5 Germany 262,684,799 Prepared/preserved fish, whole or in pieces 103,869,433
6 Vietnam 260,440,065 Frozen shrimp and prawns, smoked/with(out) shell 92,613,117
7 Sweden 228,626,464 Fresh/chilled Atlantic salmon, Danube salmon 181,354,929
8 India 177,967,999 Frozen shrimp and prawns, smoked/with(out) shell 142,542,405
9 Norway 168,785,303 Frozen haddock 35,015,670
10 Netherlands 165,608,810 Fresh or chilled sea bass 25,025,278
11 Canada 141,306,814 Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, not in airtight container (excluding smoked) 92,531,887
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.
Top ten United Kingdom fish and seafood imports from the world in 2017
Rank Top imports Import value (US$)
1 Prepared/preserved tuna/skipjack/Atlantic bonito 511,216,553
2 Frozen shrimp and prawns, smoked/with(out) shell 464,908,326
3 Frozen fillets of cod 438,856,472
4 Fresh or chilled Atlantic salmon 424,127,908
5 Prepared/preserved- shrimps/prawns, not in airtight container (excluding smoked) 293,916,816
6 Prepared or preserved fish, whole or in pieces 170,816,627
7 Flours/meals/pellets of fish/crustaceans/molluscs or other invertebrates 122,723,281
8 Prepared/preserved- shrimps/prawns, in airtight container (excluding smoked) 109,531,372
9 Fresh or chilled fillets of fish of the families moridae, gadidae etc. 97,570,283
10 Frozen fillets of Pacific salmon 86,228,282
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.
Top ten fish and seafood suppliers to the United Kingdom in 2017 (in millions of US$)
Country Import supplied Value
1. Imports from Iceland Frozen fillets of cod 117.3
Fresh or chilled fillets of fish 84.2
Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, not in airtight container (excluding smoked) 30.6
Frozen fillets of haddock 21.8
Fresh or chilled cod 15.0
2. Imports from Denmark Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, in airtight container (excluding smoked) 44.1
Fresh or chilled Atlantic salmon 38.7
Flours/meals/pellets of fish/crustaceans/molluscs 23.9
Prepared/preserved mackerel, whole or in pieces 19.8
Frozen fillets of cod 15.2
3. Imports from China Frozen fillets of cod 112.0
Frozen fillets of Alaskan pollack 35.1
Frozen cuttle fish/squid, with(out) shell 30.7
Frozen fillets of Pacific salmon 27.3
Frozen fillets of haddock 20.3
4. Imports from Faroe Islands Fresh or chilled Atlantic salmon 179.5
Frozen fillets of cod 27.7
Flours/meals/pellets of fish/crustaceans/molluscs 13.9
Fresh or chilled Pacific salmon 12.8
Frozen cod 10.2
5. Imports from Germany Prepared/preserved fish, whole or in pieces 103.9
Frozen fillets of cod 42.7
Smoked Pacific salmon 27.5
Fresh or chilled fillets of Pacific salmon 12.8
Frozen fillets of Pacific salmon 6.7
6. Imports from Vietnam Frozen shrimp and prawns, smoked 92.6
Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, not in airtight container (excluding smoked) 63.2
Frozen fillets of catfish 44.1
Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, in airtight container (excluding smoked) 26.5
Frozen fillets of cod 10.7
7. Imports from Sweden Fresh or chilled Atlantic salmon 181.3
Fresh or chilled trout 12.5
Smoked Pacific salmon 11.7
Fresh or chilled fish meat, minced or not 5.4
Fresh or chilled fillets of Pacific salmon 3.2
8. Imports from India Frozen shrimp and prawns, smoked/with(out) shell 142.5
Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, in airtight container (excluding smoked) 11.0
Frozen cuttlefish/squid, with(out) shell 3.6
Frozen fish, NES* 3.6
Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, not in airtight container (excluding smoked) 3.3
9. Imports from Norway Frozen haddock 35.0
Flours/meals/pellets of fish/crustaceans/molluscs 30.9
Frozen cod 27.9
Frozen fillets of cod 25.0
Frozen fillets of haddock 13.1
10. Imports from Netherlands Fresh or chilled sea bass 25.0
Smoked fish, includes fillets 16.4
Frozen fillets of flat fish 16.0
Prepared/preserved shrimps/prawns, not in airtight container (excluding smoked) 13.4
Fresh or chilled fillets of fish, NES* 11.6

Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2018.

*NES: Not Elsewhere Specified

Market sizes

The United Kingdom is a major market for fish and seafood products. Fish and seafood in the United Kingdom is expected to post a 1% total volume compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the forecasted period. Health trends are hoped to boost the demand in fish and seafood sales by prioritising on healthier proteins and moving away from consuming fatty meats.

The market share for all fresh seafood categories were still slowly on the rise throughout the five year historic growth rate, including crustaceans, fish and seafood, molluscs and cephalopods, along with chilled packaged seafood. However, during the period of 2018 to 2022, only fresh fish and seafood are forecasted to continue to increase positively at a CAGR of 1.2%. The packaged shelf stable seafood is forecasted over a period of five years to continue to decline the most by a negative CAGR of 2.0%. Finally, although the demand for packaged frozen processed seafood will remain within a negative CAGR, the growth rate will still improve from a historical rate of a negative CAGR of 2.7% to a negative CAGR of only 0.2% and will be considered a stable alternative option for consumption.

Market sizes of fresh and packaged food categories, historical
total volume (in '000 tonnes)
Category 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 CAGR* (%) 2013-2017
Total fresh food categories 701.4 724.8 739.5 737.8 729.9 1.0
Crustaceans 66.1 68.2 69.1 70.7 72.0 2.2
Fish and seafood 624.1 645.4 659.5 656.2 646.7 0.9
Molluscs and cephalopods 11.1 11.2 11.0 10.9 11.2 0.2
Total packaged food categories 323.4 318.6 312.1 308.6 305.4 −3.4
Shelf stable seafood 64.2 60.6 61.5 61.8 61.9 −0.9
Chilled processed seafood 98.9 99.1 98.2 99.1 100.0 0.3
Frozen processed seafood 160.3 158.9 152.4 147.7 143.5 −2.7

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018

*CAGR: Compound annual growth rate

Market sizes of fresh and packaged food categories, forecast
total volume (in '000 tonnes)
Category 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 CAGR* (%) 2018-2022
Total fresh food categories 733.4 739.1 747 756.9 770 1.2
Crustaceans 72.8 73.5 74.0 74.4 74.8 0.7
Fish and seafood 649.3 654.3 661.5 671.0 683.7 1.3
Molluscs and cephalopods 11.3 11.4 11.4 11.5 11.6 0.7
Total packaged food categories 305.3 305.9 305 302.4 299.2 −2.2
Shelf stable seafood 62.7 62.7 61.4 59.1 57.9 −2.0
Chilled processed seafood 101.4 103.4 104.3 103.7 101.1 −0.1
Frozen processed seafood 141.2 139.8 139.3 139.6 140.2 −0.2

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018

*CAGR: Compound annual growth rate

Consumption trends

British consumers are more informed about what they consume and eating well is important to them. Promoting fish as a quick, easy and healthy balanced meal is an essential trend focusing on fish species such as salmon and mackerel which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, essential features of cognitive and cardio health. 'Health' and 'taste' are the key components of 'quality' in the mind of the shopper, both of which shoppers strongly associate with seafood. Yet when the economy is struggling, in the case of the post Brexit referendum, shoppers and consumers trade out seafood to turn to cheaper proteins. Before the vote, unprocessed naturally healthy food was high on the shoppers' list, prioritising quality at 22% over saving money at 19%. Post the vote, the shopper priorities within the United Kingdom shifted by focusing back on saving money rather than quality. It is too early to predict how the result of the referendum has impacted the UK economy and shopper preferences in the long term, but history has shown that seafood consumption is directly linked to the UK economy. To read more see the Seafish report (PDF).

Euromonitor International reports that the British consumed a combined total of 11.5 kilograms (kg) of fish and seafood per capita in 2017. This represents a decline of approximately 0.9% from 2016 and it is forecasted that it will continue to decline by that percentage in 2018. However, in 2019 it is forecasted that the total consumption of fish and seafood per capita will then rise about 1.8% and remain stable at this amount for the next upcoming years. This increase will result mainly by an increase in the fresh fish and seafood categories. The consumption of frozen processed and packaged seafood is forecasted to remain as a stable and viable option with a total average volume CAGR of 140 tonnes from 2018 to 2022, while packaged shelf stable seafood will continue to decrease by a CAGR of −2.0% during the same timeframe.

Fish manufacturers can look for specific solutions to drive value sales of different fish and seafood types through innovation in packaged fish and seafood options. Consumers buy more frequently and are becoming slightly more loyal to frozen fish products. British consumers more often order fish and seafood meals prepared within restaurants or through other food service channels, as much as 35% or one third of the time. However, British consumers are slowly overcoming their fear of cooking fish and seafood with available step-by-step preparation guides and promotions which profile fish and seafood as both healthy and convenient. Additionally, with conveniently packaged alternatives and clever labels supporting the healthy home-cooked family meal option, a rise in packaged fish sales will see consumers develop a greater propensity to eat fish in general. This is important to boost the historically consistent decline in overall consumption of fish and seafood, within the United Kingdom.

Opportunities

The United Kingdom is one of the most digitally advanced markets in the world, where the most digitally savvy category in the United Kingdom by far is in retailing. Within retail, connected commerce provides the greatest opportunity particularly with grocery shopping. British consumers are interested in finding the newest, fastest and the most convenient methods of payment via mobile smartphones and contactless technology. Mobile orders with well-developed apps are the fastest growing m-commerce and are the top consumer trend sales channel with the highest growing future potential. Consumer foodservice via remote mobile purchases has seen a growth of 44% in 2017, to reach total value sales of 3.9 billion in US dollars. Digital consumer purchases have also increased significantly by 10% in terms of value sales in 2017 and are considered the most utilized purchasing method rather than an exception. This trend helps the consumers save money and make repeat purchases, while finding the most convenient, most efficient way possible to top up their shopping baskets (Euromonitor International, 2017).

The United Kingdom market is very important for Newfoundland and Labrador seafood, particularly for coldwater shrimp and cod, as indicated in the "By the numbers" section within this report as being amongst the top imported products of fish and seafood to the UK within 2017. One example of a major marketing initiative in the UK that was developed from the International Cold Water Prawn Forum and is a collaborative initiative from the Royal Greenland and the Association of Seafood Producers within Newfoundland, includes the Wild Atlantic Prawns interactive Chef Education programme. More recently the founding members have been joined by the Norwegian Seafood Council, Icelandic Export Centre Ltd and Holmadrangur ehf. It is designed to provide chefs, trainee chefs and those studying hospitality management subjects an introduction to Wild Atlantic Prawns. Additionally more recently, an Atlantic Canada event was held at the seafood school at Billingsgate, which promoted Canadian seafood to chefs, food writers, bloggers and food journalists.

Government appointed experts within the fish and seafood industry have formed a working group to aim at doubling fish and seafood consumption by 2040. All officials involved in the 2040 project have recognised that the seafood value chain is on the brink of enormous opportunity and are trying to quantify and know how to measure, just how big this opportunity could be. In essence, they are asking questions like is it possible to achieve Public Health England's advice for each of us to eat at least two portions of seafood a week and whether we can sustain such a demand if possible or what would be the positive impacts on our health and how can the supply chain evolve to meet this possible growing demand? Their vision is to describe what a thriving industry might look like while fuelling the economic growth within the sector, by doubling the consumption of fish and seafood per person, per week and in return be able to measure the substantial health gains and associated cost savings for the UK, accordingly. To read more see the Seafood 2040 report: A strategic framework for England (PDF).

Distribution channels

Although historically being the most popular means of consuming fish and seafood in the United Kingdom, eating out via high end restaurants or other foodservices is expected to decline into 2022; along with the demand of fish and seafood prepared within institutions. As the chart indicates below, digital retail purchases of fish and seafood are expected to experience the highest year over year (*YOY) point growth trend at 62% in 2017.

As described in a Seafish report (PDF), once again, the economy within the UK has demonstrated strong negative ramifications due to the Brexit referendum. In 2015, as the UK slowly continued to move out of austerity, total foodservice led the recovery with return in total-servings growth in the third quarter (Q3) of 2015. Seafood continued to grow in foodservice into the first half of 2016 (pre Brexit referendum), indicative of the growing economy and high shopper confidence. Fish and chips also performed strongly across nearly all channels, which had been in gradual decline as a meal since 2010. Then after the referendum result, UK consumer confidence as measured by the European Commission, plummeted 8 points. It has since begun to recover, but is still a long way behind pre referendum levels.

Channel distribution for fish and seafood
(% Breakdown 2017 and point growth trend from 2012-2017)
Channel Breakdown 2012 Breakdown 2017 Point Growth Trend (YOY*)
Retail 60% 62% Increase
Foodservice 35% 34% Decrease
Institutional 5% 4% Decrease

Source: Euromonitor International, 2018

*YOY: Year over year financial analysis method- compares results at one time period with those of a comparable time period on an annualized basis of total volume in tonnes and evaluates whether financial performance is improving or worsening.

Product launch analysis

According to Mintel International 2018, there were 52 new processed fish products launched in the United Kingdom market between March 2017 and March 2018. As shown in the table below, branded options represented about 46% of the total launches, chilled options (versus shelf-stable or frozen) were the preferred storage type, and ethical-oriented environmentally friendly and ease of use product claims featured very prominently among the new releases.

New Launches of processed fish products in United Kingdom from March 2017 to March 2018, by feature
Feature Launch count
Top ten companies
Tesco 12
Whitby seafoods 6
Asda 5
Other- branded label 4
Fishmonger's favourite 3
John west specialities 2
New England seafood 2
Waitrose 2
Other- private label 2
Silver tide 2
Manufacturer type
Private label 28
Branded 24
Top five claims[1]
Ethical - environmentally friendly product 42
Ease of use 23
Ethical - environmentally friendly package 17
Low/no/reduced fat, transfat or fat 6
Microwaveable 4
Storage
Chilled 29
Shelf stable 12
Frozen 11
Top five package types
Tray 23
Can 12
Flexible[2] 10
Tub 6
Skinpack 1

Source: Mintel GNPD, 2018.

  • 1: Please note that the totals for the count of products launched by claim may add to more than 52 (100%), as products can use multiple claims.
  • 2: Pack made of flexible or easily yielding materials (for example: paper, foil, plastic film)

Examples of new products

According to Mintel International 2018, the following are some examples of the new products launched in the United Kingdom market from March 2017 to March 2018, including the top 3 ethical- environmentally friendly and easy to use claims.

Beer Battered Cod Fillets
Company Tesco
Brand Tesco Finest
Label Private label
Import Status Not imported
Price in US dollars 6.21
Launch Type New packaging
Date published March 2018
Packaging Tray, Plastic PET
Storage Type Chilled

Product Description: Tesco Finest Beer Battered Cod Fillets have been repackaged with a newly designed 385 gram (g) recyclable pack, containing two units and featuring the Marine Stewardship Counci (MSC) certified sustainable seafood, and the Black Sheep brewery logos. The skinless and freezable fillets comprise of a crisp coated batter made with Black Sheep Ale beer, which was said to be selected for its distinctively smooth and bittersweet taste.

Seafood Selection
Company Asda
Label Private label
Price in US dollars 6.35
Launch Type New variety/range extension
Date published February 2018
Packaging Flexible stand-up pouch
Storage Type Frozen

Product Description: Asda Seafood Selection comprises a mix of cooked succulent mussel meat, cooked squid rings and cooked and peeled prawns in a protective ice glaze. The sustainably sourced product has been freshly frozen for locked-in freshness, is ready cooked and can simply be defrosted and eaten or heated and added to a dish.

Sugo Benessere Leggerezza Seafood Medley
Company Iceland Foods
Brand Iceland
Label Private label
Price in US dollars 4.85
Launch Type New variety/range extension
Date published January 2018
Packaging Tray, carton, vacuum sealed plastic
Storage Type Frozen

Product Description: Comprised of squid, clams, shrimp, cherry tomatoes and courgettes in a turmeric and saffron sauce. The product is low in saturated fat, can be heated and served with pasta, and contains 57 calories per half a pack. It also can be stir-fried in seven minutes.

For more information

International Trade Commissioners can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions and local business contacts, and are an excellent point of contact for export advice.

For additional intelligence on this and other markets, the complete library of Global Analysis reports can be found on the International agri-food market intelligence page, arranged by region.

For additional information on the Seafood Expo Global (SEG) 2018, please contact:

Ben Berry, Deputy Director
Trade Show Strategy and Delivery
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
ben.berry@canada.ca

Resources

Sector Trend Analysis – Fish and seafood trends in the United Kingdom
Global Analysis Report

Prepared by: Erin-Ann Chauvin, International Market Research Analyst

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