Fish ahead of chicken in Waitrose sales hike –

Fish ahead of chicken in Waitrose sales hike Published:  12 September, 2006

UPMARKET supermarket chain Waitrose has revealed a 20 per cent year-on-year rise in fish sales – boosted it believes by the health message.

The company sources much of its supply from the Grimsby area based company Sealord which has expanded its production facilities in northern Lincolnshire.

This sales figures are particularly heartening for the seafood industry because similar statistics for poultry show an increase of just six per cent through Waitrose stores. The message from the company sales figures is that fish has long ceased to be a Cinderella food and is now becoming a regular and staple purchase.

Waitrose fish sales are worth over £150million a year or around ten per cent of the total UK fish market. The company believes that the strong health message that fish is good for the heart is at last getting through to the general public. However, nutrition experts say there is still a long way to go before the majority of people heed the recommendations on eating two fish meals a week, including one portion of oily fish. However, some industry experts are worried that the rising price of fish in the shops may slow down further growth. Both cod and salmon prices have been climbing steadily in recent months.

The Food Standards Agency recommends eating at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily, as part of a low fat diet and as a source of omega-3 fats which help reduce heart disease.

Waitrose’s specialist fish buyer Jeremy Langley said: “Fish is a fantastic addition to a healthy diet and has become a mainstream addition to our customers’ shopping baskets. But coupled with this surge in demand is a pressing need for retailers to ensure that their fish is sourced in the most sustainable way possible.”

Until about five years ago most of Waitrose stores were situated in the South East and West Country, but it has been expanding into the North at an impressive rate although it tends to choose its locations carefully.

Waitrose like most of the other supermarket groups takes fish conservation seriously. All of its cod and haddock – the two most popular white fish – is caught on lines rather than trawlers. Much of it is flown into factories in the Grimsby area via Humberside Airport direct from Iceland and is often appearing in stores less than four days after being caught. Waitrose says it wants to phase out beam trawling, a practice that involves dragging a heavy net across the sea bed and which, it is claimed, damages the marine environment. It has also been sourcing all of its cod and haddock from Iceland for over six years because it says the Icelandic fishery is the best managed in the northern hemisphere with excellent stock assessments and strict quota controls.

Young’s Bluecrest has also been a big supporter of the fresh fish air corridor between Reykjavik and Humberside Airport over the past five years, taking an increasing share of its supply via air freight and was one of the pioneers of the service. Young’s sales have almost doubled from £270million a year to £500million since it joined forces with Bluecrest in 1999. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.