£20m Waitrose win triggers Grimsby seafood processor expansion

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 23 Jul 2018

MAJOR investment in a Grimsby seafood processor is in full swing after a £20 million contract win.

Seachill’s highly visible coating plant by the A180 entrance to Grimsby is being expanded in order to handle the major coup with upmarket retailer Waitrose.

Home to a large portion of the company’s Tesco own label work – the bedrock of the business – and the branded Saucy Fish Co fishcake range, chief executive Simon Smith underlined how the South Humberside Industrial Estate base is “humming with activity”.

The past year seeing 154 jobs created as work has ramped up, 140 of which are permanent positions. 

It comes after Seachill was bought out by British company Hilton Foods, from Icelandic Group, late last year. Last week, in a strong trading update it said “Seachill is effectively contributing to the growth of the group in line with our expectations; we are also developing our strategic options for expanding the fish division.”

Work underway at Seachill's coated factory

Of the work ongoing at Estate Road Two, with contractors engaged including near neighbour Brianplant as well as town-based Food Sector Construction Ltd and Carrera Engineering, Mr Smith said: “The expansion is new kit going in to help us deliver some of the business wins. 

“We have got a fast-growing Tesco business, we have won the Waitrose coated business, which has been nearly three years in the making, and Saucy’s coated products come out of this site as well.

Read more: The Saucy Fish Co is back in Tesco as UK's number one supermarket goes sub-zero

“We said we needed a new owner with new investment, and these are the physical signs of that. 

“Hilton is great for the business, a good owner, it is a good home for the business. We are still in development on many proposals, and looking at how we can expand the sector, but it is doing really well, we are delighted with it.”

The Waitrose work is understood to have come at a cost to Caistor Seafoods, a long-standing supplier to the food retail division of the John Lewis Partnership. It underlines the highs and lows of a continual merry-go-round that Seachill is looking to slow, with longer-term contracts and partner status sought with the supermarkets.

Seachill product for Waitrose

For years it had handled the M&S contract, but when lost in a shock move by the high street staple, Five Star Fish proved unable to service it, with the business trading in the red for a significant time, before owner  
2 Sisters decided to pull the plug. Now that work is going to Young’s, although it has been tempered with the loss of  £30 million of Asda work, principally to expanding player Albert Darnell, on Europarc – itself under relatively new ownership with New England Seafood International.

Of the Waitrose work, Mr Smith said: “We have won all the coated business – the chilled, pre-packed, coated business.

Read more: Saucy story ripe for telling as Seachill takes seafood brand's success to Norway

We have been working with them for the past year on category management and understanding their consumers and where opportunities laid for them that may have been missed before.

“Now we have also delivered Seachill brand new products and improved the quality (of own label) into their stores. That has been massively successful and is the result of having gone through a full process involving a number of people.”

It is understood there may be further opportunities too, with some of the Waitrose work to switch in the new year.

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