Frozen fish pioneer dies at 95 –

Frozen fish pioneer dies at 95 Published:  02 June, 2010

JOE Sprott, one of the post war pioneers of the frozen fish industry, has died aged 95.

He was a co-founder of the Eskimo Frozen Food Company in Grimsby which later became part of the Findus Group in 1970 – although not quite the same Findus that exists today and is now the parent of Young’s Seafood.

After the Second World War, Grimsby Fish Docks was full of eager young fish merchants, fresh out of uniform, looking at new ideas.

Among that group was  Joe Sprott who had seen how the American Army had successfully used frozen fish to feed their troops in the field.He believed it was a concept which could successfully be adapted to the British home market even though at the time few households could afford refrigerators, let alone home freezers.

With typical humour, he told Fishupdate earlier this year: “I had worked on Hull Fish Docks before the war and in fact I was the only Yorkshireman allowed to get onto Grimsby Fish Docks in those days. But everyone was very good to me.”

“The idea came to me when I saw American soldiers eating frozen fish portions and I realised  that after the war it was something that could be put to good use in the commercial world.”

Joe decided a name change was needed so he called the company Eskimo because it  sounded good and fitted the type of products he was selling. He also devised the happy Eskimo symbol and logo.

Eskimo then became part of the Associated Fisheries Group, but although it was a large fishing company it did not have the financial resources to grow the business in the way Joe Sprott wanted. He had this vision of Eskimo challenging Birds Eye, then the dominant name in frozen foods.

One of their first marketing promotions was to give buyers of their fish fingers a photograph of an up and coming young group called The Beatles. Joe said: “I am very proud of the fact that Eskimo fish fingers were made from whole fish, not the minced variety like our rivals. Inevitably, with so many new players in the consortium there were bound to be disagreements and in 1965 Joe Sprott left the company he created to join the Forte hotels and catering group.