FRANK Flear, one of the UK’s great seafood pioneers, has died at the age of 84.
A larger than life figure, he created and built two major companies, Bluecrest, which later became an integral part of Young’s Seafood, and latterly Seachill, now one of the biggest salmon and white fish processors in the country, as well as providing employment for thousands of Grimsby people.
He also helped save Grimsby’s fishing industry by successfully leading a campaign to build a modern new fish market just as the old building was on the brink of collapse.
Born into a family of nine children and steeped in fishing tradition, his first job was as a seafood buyer with Ross Group, which merged with Bluecrest over a decade ago to become Young’s Seafood.
Ross Group later gave him a factory to run in what he once described as the most of exciting of times to be in seafood.
It also gave him the desire to run his own business and at the age of 42 set up Bluecrest Foods, supplying own label seafood to restaurants, schools and catering companies.
Flear later helped save hundreds of jobs by taking over a seafood factory from Findus, which was pulling out of Grimsby, a move he described as one of his proudest moments.
After selling his business, he took it on himself to spearhead a successful drive to rebuild Grimsby fish market, which kept the port at the centre of the UK fish industry. The old market was crumbling and in danger of being condemned.
Then, with a number of other former Bluecrest executives, he launched Seachill just over 14 years ago, securing a long-term contract to supply Tesco with salmon and white fish.
Today, Seachill, now owned by the Hilton Food Group, is one of the largest providers of salmon and white fish in the UK and also owns the Saucy Fish brand, the brainchild of the current chief executive, Simon Smith.
Steve Norton, former chief executive of the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association, said: ‘Grimsby and the wider seafood industry will always be grateful to Frank Flear because he did so much for both. He was one of the giants of this industry and will be sorely missed.’
Frank Flear leaves a wife, a son and a daughter. A second son pre-deceased him several years ago.
Picture: Frank Flear, seafood pioneer