BIRDS Eye, Britain’s largest frozen food producer, found itself embroiled in a Marmitegate style row at the weekend after it was revealed it is looking at raising the price of fish fingers and other products.
The company, which is now owned by New York listed Nomad Foods, is seeking price rises of up to 12 per cent after it said many of its raw materials, especially fish, were priced in dollars and so its sterling costs had risen. The UK fish finger market is worth £85 million a year to the seafood sector.
The company is certainly right in that fish such as cod, haddock and Alaskan pollock, the largely imported species most commonly used in fish fingers, are up thanks to a sharp fall in the value of the pound since Brexit. Other producers of frozen and chilled products are likely to follow suit.
But there may be resistance from the retailers. Unilever, the owner of Marmite, was reportedly said to have backed down on a price rise last month after Tesco pulled it from its online list.
So far, supermarkets have yet to respond to the Birds Eye development, but at least one of the large chains is reported to be uneasy.
Birds Eye is also said to be planning to shrink pack sizes to offset costs.
Wayne Hudson, Birds Eye’s UK and Ireland managing director, said: ‘Increasing costs is not a decision we take lightly, and the last time it was necessary to raise costs was in 2012.
‘As such, we have been in open and collaborative conversations with the retailers for some time now and are working closely with them to minimise any impact on our customers.
‘Our first priority is always to the people who buy our brands and we are committed to ensuring they get the best quality products that provide value for money.’
Ironically, the new broke as Birds Eye launched its fish finger sandwich awards which challenge entrants to devise the most creative recipe. The winning sandwich will feature on some Birds Eye packs.