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Sector Trend Analysis - Cod Fish in the United Kingdom

May 2017

Sector Trend Analysis - Cod Fish in the United Kingdom (PDF Version, 475KB) | Help with downloadable formats

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Executive summary

The United Kingdom (U.K.) is one of the most significant importers of cod fish in the world - supplied mainly by Iceland, China, and Norway. In 2016, the U.K. imported 104.2 million kilograms (kg) of cod, representing C$700.8 million. British cod imports have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 9.2% (by value) from 2011 to 2016, while cod imports by volume have increased at a slower compound annual growth rate of 4.9% over the same period. The most common cod product imported into the U.K. is frozen fillets (81%), followed by frozen whole cod (12%).

According to the Strategic market assessment of the European Union report, cod fish in the U.K. has been identified as one of the most promising opportunities in the European Union (EU). Through a rigorous analysis of the market size, growth, and tariff reductions of EU imports, the U.K. represents an ideal opportunity for Canadian cod exporters.

White fish is the most popular fish choice in the U.K., and the British population consumes more cod than any other white fish. While volume sales for the entire fish category declined by 0.8% from 2014 to 2016, sales of cod increased by 4.2%. As two of the most common reasons for not eating cod are lack of recipe knowledge and the time required to prepare cod from scratch, retail sales have benefited from innovative products focused on convenience and new flavours, such as pre-marinated fish that can be oven-baked. Consumption also seems to be linked to increasing awareness of the health benefits of fish products. Advertising campaigns by the seafood industry, promoting the health benefits of fish, have therefore also greatly benefitted retail sales.

The most common foodservice channel where the British eat cod is at fish and chip shops, with 58.4 million cod servings in 2015, representing a 32.8% increase from 2014.

Introduction – positioning cod in the world

In 2016, the United Kingdom (U.K.) was the third largest importer of cod in the world by value, with C$700.8 million in imports. The U.K. was also the fourth largest importer of cod by volume, with 104.2 million kilograms of cod imported in 2016.

Although the U.K. has a significant fishing industry, it exports most of the seafood caught and imports species that are more popular with domestic consumers. In 2015, approximately 90% of the cod supply in the U.K. was imported.

Top cod markets worldwide in 2016, $C
Rank Country Value, $C Market Share (%) CAGR (%) 2011-2016
N/A World 6,976,846,503 100 10.7
1 China 754,888,812 10.8 14.1
2 Netherlands 730,953,651 10.5 19.0
3 United Kingdom 700,822,447 10.0 9.2
4 Portugal 668,901,949 9.6 6.1
5 Sweden 609,334,094 8.7 12.0
6 United States 544,191,147 7.8 16.6
7 Germany 447,393,454 6.4 15.0
8 Spain 422,184,599 6.1 12.7
9 Denmark 400,565,214 5.7 10.4
10 France 391,067,834 5.6 8.3
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2017
Harmonized System (HS)
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Not applicable (N/A)
Note: For the purpose of this report, "cod" was defined using the following HS codes: 030250, 030251, 030352, 030360, 030363, 030471, 030551, 030562
Top cod* markets worldwide in 2016 (kilograms)
Rank Country Volume (kilograms) Market Share (%) CAGR (%) 2011-2016
N/A World 1,170,627,538 100 5.4
1 China 201,352,887 17.2 6.6
2 Netherlands 121,945,889 10.4 10.1
3 Portugal 109,487,516 9.4 1.4
4 United Kingdom 104,254,499 8.9 4.9
5 Sweden 83,955,968 7.2 9.2
6 Denmark 82,569,848 7.1 6.9
7 Spain 70,270,395 6.0 7.6
8 United States 63,210,182 5.4 9.5
9 Germany 55,661,663 4.8 10.9
10 France 52,553,872 4.5 3.1
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2017
Harmonized System (HS)
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Not applicable (N/A)
Note: For the purpose of this report, "cod" was defined using the following HS codes: 030250, 030251, 030352, 030360, 030363, 030471, 030551, 030562

In 2016, Iceland was the largest value supplier of cod to the U.K., followed by China and Norway. While Canada ranked eleventh overall, it was the fifth largest non-EU supplier, representing about 0.8% market share.

The most common format for cod imported into the U.K. in 2016 was frozen fillets (81%), followed by frozen whole cod (12%). The frozen whole cod segment experienced the most growth with a compound annual growth rate of 44.4% from 2012 to 2016, while the dried/unsalted cod segment saw the slowest growth, with a compound annual growth rate of 2.3% from 2012 to 2016. According to Seafish, a British Non-Departmental Public Body funded by a levy on the first sale of seafood products in the UK including imports, this trend may shift due to an increasing demand for chilled fish. It has been reported that Icelandic fishing companies have been looking to sell their freezer vessels in order to switch to onshore processing, which also has cheaper operating costs.

Traditionally, the cod that is most commonly consumed in the U.K. has been Atlantic cod; however, Pacific cod is also imported and is usually used for breaded or battered products, such as fish fingers.

Top 10 importers of cod worldwide in 2016, C$
Country Imports C$ Top supplies & market share #1 Top supplies & market share #2 Top supplies & market share #3 Canada's share
1. China 754,888,812 Russia 44% United States 26% Norway 19% 0.05%
2. Netherlands 730,953,651 Russia 35% Iceland 32% Norway 19% 0.16%
3. United Kingdom 700,822,447 Iceland 27% China 20% Norway 12% 0.80%
4. Portugal 668,901,949 Sweden 40% Netherlands 28% Russia 7% 0.16%
5. Sweden 609,334,094 Norway 85% China 6% Denmark 3% no data
6. United States 544,191,147 China 69% Iceland 10% Russia 8% 5.71%
7. Germany 447,393,454 Norway 32% China 26% Poland 13% 0.04%
8. Spain 422,184,599 Iceland 26% China 14% Netherlands 14% 0.34%
9. Denmark 400,565,214 Norway 52% Greenland 20% Germany 6% 0.14%
10. France 391,067,834 China 19% Norway 16% Poland 8% 0.31%
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2017
Cod export gap in 2016, C$
Imports/gap 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 CAGR (%) 2012-2016
U.K.'s imports from the world 492,243,195 491,482,328 571,061,856 681,256,550 700,822,448 9.2
U.K.'s imports from Canada 2,503,071 2,722,352 5,796,778 4,827,033 5,668,300 22.7
Gross export gap 2,915,348,843 489,740,124 565,265,078 676,429,517 695,154,148 −30.1
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2017
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Top 5 cod products imported into the U.K. from the world, C$
HS code Description 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 CAGR (%) 2012-2016
030471 Frozen Fillets of Cod (Gadus Morhua, Gadus Ogac, Gadus Acrocephalus) 445,363,939 429,429,410 478,985,891 560,104,817 568,128,929 6.3
030363 Frozen Whole Cod (Gadus Morhua, Gadus Ogac, Gadus Acrocephalus) 18,593,188 22,053,395 51,862,047 67,929,734 80,799,641 44.4
030251 Fresh or Chilled Cod (Gadus Morhua, Gadus Ogac, Gadus Macrocephalus) 26,404,856 38,427,385 38,987,542 50,668,413 49,803,972 17.2
030551 Dried/Unsalted Cod, Not Smoked Stockfish (Gadus Morhua, Gadus Ogac, Gadus Macrocephalus), Excludes Fillets and Offal 1,754,886 1,403,862 1,080,072 1,764,441 1,922,739 2.3
030562 Salted/In Brine Cod (Gadus Morhua, Gadus Ogac, Gadus Macrocephalus), Excludes Fillets and Offal 126,325 168,276 146,306 789,146 167,167 7.3
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2017
Harmonized System (HS)
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Cod imports by format, 2016
Format % total
Frozen fillets of cod 81.1%
Frozen whole cod 11.5%
Fresh or chilled cod 7.1%
Dried cod, not smoked 0.3%
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2017.
Cod imports by species, 2016
Species % total
Mixed cod species imports (Atlantic, Pacific & other cod) 68%
Atlantic cod imports 24%
Pacific cod imports 8%
Source: Seafish, 2016.

Consumer trends

A study by Seafish found that healthy and unprocessed food was a high priority for consumers in the U.K. in May 2016, with 22% of consumers prioritizing freshness and quality over cost (19%). However, since July 2016, priorities have shifted and consumers have gone back to focusing on saving money, rather than on quality. This is consistent with the historic trend of seafood consumption being closely linked to the economy. When the economy is uncertain, consumers tend to substitute seafood and its high unit prices for less expensive sources of protein.

Other obstacles for cod sales in the U.K. include lack of recipe knowledge, and the time required to prepare fish from scratch. Retail sales have therefore benefited from innovative products such as pre-marinated fish that can be oven-baked. There has also been recent growth in snacking occasions.

Cod is considered to be a healthy element of a balanced diet and good for brain development, however, many consumers are not aware of the weekly recommended number of fish servings. It has been found that increased knowledge regarding the many health benefits of eating fish and the recommended number of servings greatly impacts consumption. Advertising campaigns by the seafood industry, promoting the health benefits of fish, have been effective in addressing this obstacle.

Retail sales

White fish is the most popular fish choice in the U.K., and the British consume more cod than any other white fish. In 2015, cod total retail sales were worth C$711 million, representing 44,887 tonnes with an average price of C$15.83/kg. Cod was the best-selling species of frozen seafood in both volume and value, and experienced approximately 36% more sales than the second ranked species, which was Alaskan Pollack. Cod was also ranked as the second most popular species within chilled seafood; and second in total seafood by value and third by volume.

Value of retail sales of cod are split evenly between chilled and frozen formats. Although frozen products are generally perceived as being less healthy, by volume, British consumers eat nearly two and a half times more frozen cod as they do chilled cod. By product type, chilled natural cod, or unprocessed, represents a 30% value share and is popular due to its versatility and healthfulness, followed by breaded cod and cod fish fingers, which are popular due to their taste and convenience. Although starting from a small base, dusted products which are perceived to be healthier because they are lightly dusted with seasoned flour rather than coated in batter, saw the strongest growth, increasing by 108%. The "cod meals" segment was the weakest, decreasing by 16% in 2015.

The main obstacles for fish sales remain high unit prices and lack of recipe knowledge, however, with the development of new recipes and increasing awareness of the health benefits of fish, it is expected that fish will remain a staple product in the U.K. in the future. According to Euromonitor International, it is expected that the volume of fish sales will increase by a compound annual growth rate of 0.9% from 2017 to 2020.

Historic volume sales, '000 kilogram (kg)
Segment 2014 2015 2016 CAGR (%) 2014-2016
Cod 43,505 44,849 47,263 4.2
Total fish 334,698 328,717 329,592 −30.8
Source: Seafish, 2017.
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Sales of fish and seafood: % total volume 2013-2015
% Retail Volume 2013 2014 2015
Packaged 66.0 67.0 67.5
Unpackaged 34.0 33.0 32.5
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0
Source: Euromonitor, 2017.
Cod retail sales by segment, 2015
Segment Retail Sales (%)
Cod natural 30%
Cod breaded 17%
Cod fingers 15%
Cod batter 14%
Cod cakes 9%
Cod sauce 7%
Cod dusted 3%
Cod prepared 3%
Cod meals 2%
Source: Seafish, 2017.

Cod in foodservice

In 2015, the number of servings that included cod increased across all foodservice channels, except fast food restaurants, which does not include fish and chip shops. Cod is by far the most popular species of fish eaten within the foodservice industry with about 145 million servings in 2015, which is nearly three times more servings than the next most popular species (haddock, prawns, and salmon). In 2016, cod servings accounted for 31.7% of all fish servings, and 14.8% of all seafood servings. Traditional fish and chip shops had the largest number of cod servings in 2015, with 58.4 million servings sold, a 32.8% increase from 2014.

According to Seafish, there are approximately 10,500 fish and chip shops in the U.K., which together serve about 380 million meals per year. The most popular species consumed in fish and chip shops are cod and haddock, followed by a variety of other species. Haddock is more common in Scotland, Yorkshire, northern England and the Midlands, while cod is the fish of choice in most other parts of the U.K.. Full service restaurants experienced the most growth in servings from 2014 to 2015, increasing by 39.3%; while fast food restaurants saw a 12.8% decrease in cod servings during the same period.

2014-2015 cod servings by foodservice channel (millions)
Channel 2014 2015
Total Out of Home Servings 125,968 145,351
Fish and Chip Shops 33,852 58,430
Pubs 37,770 44,969
Full Service Restaurants 13,465 40,527
Workplace/College/University 11,904 18,753
Fast Food Restaurants 15,435 13,471
Travel and Leisure 11,597 44,969
Source: Seafish, 2016.

Key players

The top British distributor of fish and seafood in 2015 was Direct Seafood, followed by Nila, and Reynolds and the retailers that sold the most processed fish and seafood in 2016 were Tesco, followed by Sainsbury, and Morrisons. Young's Seafood Ltd. is the top company for processed seafood products, representing 9.2% market share in 2016.

Top five processed seafood companies in 2016
Rank Company Market Share (%)
1 Young's Seafood Ltd. 9.2
2 Thai Union Frozen Products PCL 7.3
3 Nomad Foods Ltd. 6.7
4 Mitsubishi Corp. 6.0
5 Icelandic Group 1.5
Source: Euromonitor International, 2017.
Distribution of fish and seafood by format: % total volume 2010-2015
Format 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Retail 59.3 59.6 59.8 60.1 60.3
Foodservice 35.7 35.1 34.9 34.7 34.6
Institutional 5.0 5.3 5.3 5.2 5.1
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Source: Euromonitor International, 2017

New product launch analysis

New product launches of cod products in the U.K. - Yearly product launches
Feature 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Launches 31 38 38 76 60
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, 2017.
New product launches of cod products in the U.K. - Yearly product launches (Top five claims)
Feature 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Environmentally friendly package 16 21 22 50 33
Environmentally friendly product 11 17 16 36 41
No additives/preservatives 12 10 12 19 17
Microwaveable 7 7 9 22 11
Ease of use 4 13 5 14 8
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, 2017.
New product launches of cod products in the U.K. - Yearly product launches (Imported status)
Feature 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Imported 0 2 2 6 3
Not imported 0 8 20 31 27
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, 2017.
New product launches of cod products in the U.K. - Yearly product launches (Top five flavour component groups)
Feature 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Fauna 3 4 5 26 18
Herbs and spices 0 0 0 21 16
Fruit and vegetable 1 0 1 18 15
Savoury 3 0 1 10 5
Dairy 0 0 0 6 8
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, 2017.
New product launches of cod products in the U.K. - Yearly product launches (Top five packaging type)
Feature 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Tray 10 16 23 29 27
Carton 9 8 8 19 15
Flexible 6 7 2 12 7
Flexible stand-up pouch 1 2 2 9 7
Flexible sachet 2 0 0 2 2
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, 2017.
New product launches of cod products in the U.K. - Yearly product launches (Top five companies)
Feature 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Marks and spencer 5 5 7 5 7
Tesco 5 1 7 8 6
Asda 0 1 4 12 8
Young's 1 3 4 5 9
Morrisons 4 8 3 5 0
Source: Mintel Global New Product Database, 2017.

Conclusion

With continued advertising campaigns promoting the health benefits of fish, it is expected that fish consumption will also continue to increase. The United Kingdom heavily depends on imports to meet domestic cod consumption demands, therefore, there is opportunity for Canadian companies to increase their market share.

It will be key to target the right products for the right shopper motivation, and through the right channel, while also keeping consumers interested with environmentally friendly products that are also innovative in terms of flavour, and convenience.

For more information

All EU fish and seafood tariffs are eliminated under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). For Canadian producers and exporters, this will mean duty-free access on 96% of EU fish and seafood tariff lines immediately upon CETA's implementation. The EU will then phase out tariffs on the remaining 4% of its fish and seafood tariff lines over the next 3 to 7 years.

In regards to cod exports specifically, with the implementation of CETA, Canadian cod exports to the EU will benefit from EU tariff elimination, either immediately or phased-out over 7 years. Frozen whole cod will have immediate tariff elimination of its 12% tariff. Frozen cod fillets of certain species will be duty free immediately upon implementation of CETA, and frozen fillets of most cod species will have a 7.5% tariff phased-out over 7 years. Duty-free access for an annual volume of 1,000 metric tonnes will be provided under a transitional tariff rate quota during the tariff elimination period. See the EU Tariff Schedule under CETA for details, specifically tariff items denoted with "TQCod".

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 under Statistics and Market Information at the following link, arranged by sector and region of interest: Agri-Food Trade Services for Exporters.

For additional information on Seafood Expo Global (SEG) 2017 please contact:

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

Resources

Sector Trend Analysis - Cod Fish in the United Kingdom
Global analysis report
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