Kitchen Chat and more…
Kitchen Chat and more…
Fish and Chips. A classic British dish, perhaps the king of classics, much loved by young and old UK wide – it’s part of our national identity. Battered cod or haddock with chunky chips and mushy peas. What could be better on a Friday after a long week at work?
Cod and haddock are favoured in the UK for their availability and the delicate flavour of both fish, meaning they can be enjoyed by young and old or those who prefer lighter tasting fish.
Given the apparent obsession the UK has with these two species, why don’t we utilise other fish? Why are cod and haddock so popular when our own seas contain so many different types of fish?
The UK waters offer a plethora of different fish species which are abundant in number and every bit as tasty as cod and haddock, yet vastly underutilised.
The fish that’s caught in Peterhead, Scotland, such as hake or coley (saithe), are great examples of sustainable species which are available almost all year round and are much cheaper than cod or haddock and can offer a different spin on traditional fish and chips.
Consumers are led, to a certain extent, by the offerings of fish and chip shops. We can only buy what they sell, and if it is not available then how can we buy it? Whilst the demand or interest in other species could be there, it requires a change of buying habits and a change of menus across the fish and chip sector to promote and sell other types of fish. More sustainable fish and alternative flavours.
How do we change people’s perception and demand?
This is the age-old question; how do we make people want to buy what we have to sell? In a word; marketing!
It’s 2018 and all of us have access to social media whether it be for personal or business use. It’s one of the best marketing tools ever created if used correctly. You can market your business, product or anything else to thousands of potential consumers, whether it be via an image, video or text post. The options to reach out to people are limitless and doesn’t have to cost the Earth.
It’s not easy to change buying habits as people can be afraid to try new things, they want what they’ve always wanted or won’t take the risk to pay out for something they’re not sure they’d like – but it is possible.
How can we market different fish?
Marketing a different dish for your menu can be daunting. Will it sell? Will people like it?
Adding value to a dish is a creative task, one designed to make people purchase and consume it. Would that take the form of an image or a well written description on your menu?
An example Marrfish have created is “Trio Fish & Chips”.
Batter three small portions of fish, one which is well known and two new species as a taster menu to allow people to try something new. A mix of cod, coley and hake or haddock, coley and smoked hake, or any combination of light tasting fish. You could mix it up even more and add a stronger tasting fish into the mix such as battered rainbow trout – that’s thinking outside the box right there!
As a nation we are prompted everyday to re-use and recycle plastics and other items with multiple uses. Having said that it makes sense to make the most of the fish in our local waters, stop importing so much other fish and use species that are vastly more sustainable and every bit as tasty as the traditional species of fish we use for fish and chips.
Reinvigorate fish and chips for 2018 and beyond.
We’ve all been there… the sheen of your weekly home prepared meals has worn off and you’re bored with your repertoire. You buy something different at the supermarket, perhaps a different type of fish, as you want to try and cook something new and spice up your evening meals. But what do you buy? Is it easy to cook or is there a chance you’ll ruin it and potentially waste your money?
This is, apparently, the mindset that many of us have and that denies us the luxury of preparing and tasting new foods and flavours. As a nation, we’re put off trying something new or different as we feel we don’t know how to prepare it, or don’t have the confidence.
At Marrfish we sell wholesale fish and seafood direct to trade which includes restaurants, hotels, pubs and colleges. The public has access to our fish via the menus of our clients, and we wish we could do more to promote and publicize underutilised fish species. The public must rely on supermarkets for their main sources of fish and seafood, and we are at the mercy of supermarket buying teams.
A recent government survey has discovered that 24% of UK consumers would like to prepare and serve different types of fish at home but are unsure how to cook and prepare it.
Fish is a big part of our nation’s diet: –
• Under half of all UK consumers (42%) try to serve fish at home weekly
• 37% regard fish dishes as part of their meal repertoire
• 18% of consumers prefer prepared fish products, rather than cooking recipes from scratch
• 15% do not prepare or cook fish in the home but they do buy fish & chips
Seafood is also a big part of our diet but lacks consumer confidence to prepare it: –
• Only 25% of consumers would say seafood dishes are an established part of their meal repertoire
• 13% worry about not cooking it correctly or causing illness from undercooking
• 12% find it too time consuming and complex to prepare and cook at home
• 15% do not cook seafood at home at all, but do order it from takeaways or in restaurants
When out food shopping, 40% of UK consumers often repeat buy the same products over and over. 32% of us would like to try new species of fish and seafood products if they were available and easily visible on the shelf.
40% of consumers have no choice but to buy fish from the big supermarkets as they have no access to a fresh fishmonger.
This itself is worth thinking about. The supermarkets could be part of the issue. We’re reliant on what they buy in to sell to us, which is determined by profit. We can only buy fish if the supermarkets deem it worthwhile to sell to us – or at least that’s how it feels.
The findings of this survey appear to indicate more people would buy different species of fish if they were available for sale or were assured in how to prepare it. Around our coasts in the UK there are over 50 species of fish available. How many of those do you find in the supermarkets?
We recently did an online audit of supermarkets and these are the species you’ll find with ease on their websites (pre-packaged, fresh fish): –
|Tuna||Sea Bass||Prawns||Sea Bass|
|Tuna||Prawns||Seafood Sticks||Razor Clams|
|Sea Bass||Roll Mops||Squid||Cockles|
|Roll Mops||Scallops||Hake||Crab Meat|
|Jellied Eels||Roll Mops|
As you can see the supermarkets cater for the most popular fish, but there is a lack of diversity. This lack of choice means we, as consumers, cannot access other species. We cannot go and catch the fish ourselves, and most of us have no access to a fishmonger – so we are at the mercy of the supermarkets and their buying teams.
Out of the big four, surprisingly, Sainsbury offers the most choice of pre-packaged fresh fish.
All the supermarkets sold seafood sticks, however, which don’t contain any fish at all.
To be fair to Sainsbury, they had this message on their website, which mirrors perfectly what we are trying to achieve: –
Having said that, where’s the Coley on your shelves Sainsbury? The message is right, spot on, but the execution stalled. It’s all very well spreading the word, but if a supermarket explains the situation above and doesn’t offer the solution, what’s the point in even saying anything at all?
Market share of the big 4 supermarkets
We all have busy lives and we shop for convenience. There are not many people who could justify travelling miles out of their way to access a traditional fishmonger, therefor we have no choice but to rely on the supermarkets and their offerings. This has compounded the sustainability problem with fish as we’re all driven toward the same few species, whilst there are more species available, if they are not on the shelves the consumers cannot buy it.
Increased demand for Salmon, Cod and Haddock does nothing but increase prices – leading to a decrease in sales, the price lowers due to less demand, people buy fish again due to lower prices which increases demand, which raises prices. And so, it goes on.
The big four supermarkets have a massive market share: –
• Tesco – 27.8%
• Sainsbury – 15.8%
• Asda – 15.3%
• Morrison – 10.4%
This represents 69.3% of the UK market dominated by the “big 4”.
The rest of the market is made up of: –
• + Independents
Our buying habits are determined by these big players, they are the biggest distributors in the country supplying some 29 million of us across Asda, Tesco, Sainbury and Morrison. They are the gatekeepers and it’s time they took some responsibility in utilising all our locally caught British fish. If there’s no demand, then they should create it. Make it easy for the consumer!
Variations on a theme
Oddly there were several variations on the same types of fish. This mainly affected salmon, where an example of one of the products available was fresh salmon on a lolly stick! Yes, a lolly stick, what use this comedic piece of fish has is questionable. In fact, it’s downright ridiculous.
We looked at all the fish available on supermarket websites and the amount of salmon on sale was worrying.
Tesco – 33% of the fish in their stores is salmon / 61% cod
Asda – 29% of the fish on sale is salmon / 15% cod
Morrison – 17% of fish on their website is salmon / 6% cod
Sainsbury – 22% of their fish was salmon / 7.3% cod
There’s a long way to go until the supermarkets get on board and properly promote sustainable and locally caught fish. By far the worst supermarket for diversity of species was Tesco. Just 6% of the fish sold was not salmon or cod and this causes increased and virtually unnecessary demand for those two fish. The result is that the consumer is charged more for their fish, due to forced demand, rather than being offered cheaper species which are every bit as tasty as the more popular fish.
Sustainable fishing is not just about eating less of a species – it’s about utilising the species we have on offer around us and this starts with the Supermarkets who should lead by example.
The four most popular fish – Cod, Haddock, Salmon and Tuna. As a nation we eat them everyday in some form or other. Friday’s are very popular on social media for “fish and chip Fridays” so there’s that, but also we enjoy those fish at home; Salmon being the go-to fish for most people.
Why? Why these fish? And just how many fish species are around our UK waters?
A lot is the answer.
Among the usual suspects, the UK has perfectly sustained stocks of Hake, Coley, Megrim, Turbot, Halibut, Brill, Bream and on and on. We have amazing shellfish stocks in the UK including Langoustines, Prawns, Scallops, Mussels and more. We literally have a smorgasbord of fish and seafood surrounding our nation and yet we fall back to those same four fish again and again.
How does that happen? Are we not curious creatures, looking to try new flavours and textures in our food? We are, but not when it comes to fish and part of the reason lies with the supply and distribution in the industry.
The supermarkets for example, (we make no secret we’re not big fans of their profit over provenance attitude), are the gatekeepers of the nation’s larders. They present their choices of goods for sale and we must buy either one thing or the other. Take Tesco – if their chilled section is 61% Cod or Cod products and 29% Salmon then how do we have a choice?
Most of us have no access to a traditional fishmonger and must rely on the supermarkets to provide fish, meat and vegetables.
If any one of us went into Tesco, or any of the big supermarkets, and we attempted to buy Hake, we’d likely be sorely disappointed. Hake has been MSC certified as completely sustainable since July 2018, the perfect fish to be eaten and marketed, but nothing has materialised thus far! It seems to have swum away.
There will always be a demand for the 4 popular species of fish, but there’s also demand for other tastes, textures and the demand to facilitate sustainability by choosing fish other than Cod, Haddock, Salmon and Tuna. People are inherently good and want to do their part for conservation and sustainability, but can’t easily do so thanks to Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrison and Asda.
What happens when we all want the same fish?
A common situation, the price of Salmon has been growing steadily in the last 12 months. This is not due to some incident at a fishery or less Salmon being produced, rather it’s simply the rise in popularity of Salmon in China. As a nation China have developed a taste for Salmon. This has placed a crushing pressure on Salmon stocks, and following the supply and demand model, Salmon is now more expensive.
The less supply of an item, the higher the demand, the higher the price.
As a nation we could shell out significantly less for our fish if we were properly utilising other species. Therefore, we need to start placing sustainable and quality orientated species on our menus and use this fish when we cook at home.
It’s the responsibility of the chef – place sustainable species on your menus.
It’s the responsibility of the supermarkets – offer more choice and an even spread of species (not 61% Cod)
It’s the responsibility of all of us – we need to stand up and say no! We want different species of fish. We want cheaper fish not in such high demand or the choice to switch if we choose!
We want to be allowed to do our part.