Exotic seafood import business bought out

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 18 Jan 2019

GRIMSBY exotic fish importer Oceanwide Seafood has been acquired by a Kent-based business.

Unique Seafood has bolstered its position in the niche market, with the addition of the 20-year-old family firm in an undisclosed deal.

The move will allow founder and chairman of the town company, Paul Darnell, to retire.

Son Freddy, who has worked in the business for more than a decade, joins Unique – a supplier to the retail and wholesale sector – as Grimsby-based manager.

Oceanwide, on Abbey Walk, and Unique have traded together for many years and with many synergies between the two companies, it was described as a “logical step” to merge.

Brent Bedford, managing director of Unique, said: “Due to customer demand we recognised a gap in the market to grow this unique sector even further and this deal will strengthen and broaden our product range direct from the net.

“This agreement has been a positive outcome for all and we’re very pleased to have Freddy Darnell on board bringing his wealth of knowledge to our dynamic team.”

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Oceanwide forged strong trading links with South East Asia and Indonesia, importing species such as red snapper, catfish and tilapia.

Restaurants, seafood markets and wholesalers have been outlets, with the burgeoning Chinese supermarkets another strong customer base, as well as cruise liners. It has used Grimsby for storage, but processing has always been carried out close to the catch, with requirements outlined by the family team.

“It was a natural step to join and collaborate with Unique as we’ve been trading together for many years,” said Freddy. “I look forward to expanding the customer base and product range even further with exotic species of seafood.”

Unique – based in Orpington – is a subsidiary of Brodrene Sperre A/S of Norway, a major player in the global seafood industry operating state-of-the-art fishing vessels in the Barents Sea, The Faroes and Iceland.

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Paul added: “All-round it was a natural step for the two businesses to join forces with both trading in a similar field and my pending retirement. I’m confident Freddy will be a real asset to USP.”

He started his career with Ross Young’s in Grimsby, working with what is now the UK leader, before setting up Angler Seafoods with Steve Kemp. It went to a £7 million turnover, supplying frozen fish blocks to the likes of Young’s, Bluecrest and Birds Eye, before it was bought out by Frionor, a Norwegian company, in the late Nineties.

Launching Oceanwide in 1999, Mr Darnell said: “I started again in cod and haddock but soon realised the margins were quite limited. There was a lot of demand for alternative species, so we started looking at red snapper, mullet and early stage aquaculture.”

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