Use health as a currency: On-trend brand specialist's 'home' address to Humber Seafood Summit

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 12 Oct 2017

HUMBER Seafood Summit provided the perfect professional setting for an inspirational homecoming for Claire Nuttall. 

The founder of highly respected consultancy Brand Incubator hails from the Grimsby-area, with her family roots firmly at the coal face of the industry she brought her skills to bear on with some strategic suggestions. 

Claire's grandmother worked in a Grimsby fish finger factory while her grandfather toiled on the docks, and she has gone on to work alongside and Grimsby’s own Young’s Seafood and many other leading brands in a career that sees her help ensure fast moving consumer goods live up to their billing as she identifies and builds on emerging trends. 

Recruited after impressing summit organisers at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Norway in March, Simon Dwyer, a leading figure in Grimsby’s seafood cluster who supports the annual Bergen event, described her as a “golden nugget presenter,” leading to the invitation to Cleethorpes Pier. 

And her high-energy insight was lapped up by the delegates, with her proud dad also looking on. 

“The whole opportunity for the seafood industry is quite huge and largely untapped,” she said.

“One of the biggest challenges is justifying the premium. When fish is competing with other protein sources, it can be quite difficult to justify that extra pound for a main meal in an evening. It is a still a huge challenge, and while all we want to do is increase consumption from once to two or three times a week, that’s harder than it looks. Everyone knows the barriers, the smell of fish, preparing fish, but no-one is looking at a solution. We should be justifying the premium.”

Priding herself on working with some of the biggest household names to new start-ups, she had some answers too.

“Health is a currency,” she said. “Ten years ago everything was all bout money, that was the biggest factor, but now health has become fashionable, people wear their health. Social status is more about how you look, how you behave and what you do.” 

Coining the terms ‘healthy hedonists’ and ‘wellderly’ for young fitness fanatics and those ensuring they mature better than others, Ms Nuttall said: “These people will probably pay 20 per cent more for something that fits with their lifestyle. Take lunch time, it is ‘my time, time to do something for me’, and for healthy hedonists it is at the forefront of their minds because it is really cool to walk in London, Manchester or another key city where health is really fashionable, to be walking around with seaweed crisps. 

“People will pay more to be eating these things.  I never thought I would be saying health is trendy, health is fashionable, health is cool, but it is. We see 60 is the new 40, people aren’t getting older! I am 47, I want to stay young, I go to the gym three times a week. It is all about staying young. We are all going to be working longer, we will have 70-year-olds in work place, not wanting the young whipper-snappers saying we are old-school.

“Fish can play a massive role in long term prevention too – the role fish plays in diet in terms of long term preventative benefits needs exploring. 

“Find some new news, find some new stories and think about it in a positive, amazing way, rather than just talking about fish.

“Fish is so much more important than other proteins. It has so many niche nutrients and essential nutrients, but no-one is really flashing that. We should focus on that rather than ‘eat more fish, eat more fish’. People want to stay looking good on the outside and inside. It is about nutrition and wellness, no-one is going to look after you if you don’t – the buck stops with you. 

“People want to eat more healthily, and they want really tasty stuff. 

Adding that more nutrient-packed products must be possible, if we look, she said it then needed dressing appropriately. 

“Fish could do some exciting, sexy things,” she said. “It is all about really gorgeous descriptors that make your tastebuds flow. ‘Pan-fried’, ‘seared’, getting people to eat it because they want to eat it. Fish is so delicious in so many things, and take ‘flakes of fish’. Flakes is quite an evocative word. If over-cooked we know it is rubbery, but individual flakes you could stir into a pasta dish... it is about thinking creatively about how we get convenience into the every day diet.”   

Touching on convenience and the ever-shrinking time slot for preparation of the evening meal, she said seafood was ideal, stating she would use a bag of frozen fish flakes if they were brought to market, while she said seafood also had advantages when looking at tackling malnutrition, obesity and over-processing. 

“Fish is in a great position to do something about these issues,” she said. 

And as a champion of a brand, she was full of praise for a home-grown star – Saucy Fish Co. Contrasting with the likes of Tesco’s made-up farm ‘brands’, she said of Saucy: “This is a brand I love. They challenged a lot of the industry and addressed so many issues, over smell, handling and cooking,  while delivering great tasty recipes. Those behind it should be so proud, it is just phenomenal. 

“It is an amazing brand, a proper brand. The brand is more than the product. The brand builds over time. There is so much superficiality out there, conning consumers into thinking there is a special background story.

“Brands are like a family relationship, it grows stronger and stronger every year. This brand has done extremely well because it has been invested in the right way.” 

Now living in Winchester, she described her early introduction to seafood. “My dad used to get parcels of haddock, and we were told very, very clearly that we don’t buy cod,” she said, recalling how she was told it had worms. 

And she said family, starting with grandparents Thomas and Phyllis Nuttall, instilled disciplines that have seen her thrive since leaving Louth, via university in France. “They worked extremely hard, and it has given me that grit to just keep going,” she said. “I was always supported, and told by my Dad “you can be who you want to be,” it was that and growing up with people who worked really hard, and people who instilled values as I grew up, that really gave me that sense of worth.”

She told how she was motivated by feeling, rather than money, once waking up at 4am and deciding to leave a highly-paid job to run her own business.

“I do it for love, that feeling of creating something successful,” she said.

Importance of being retail-ready and looking good on the shelves

REACHING the consumer and the relationship with the retailer was addressed by Jonathan Banks, a respected analyst and shopper expert. 

A firm favourite with an audience, he told how there was still plenty of headroom for seafood to grow, with consumption levels relatively flat, compared to declines in meat.  

And getting to that market was the thrust of his presentation.

“Without the shopper and without the consumer we really don’t have a business,” he said. “We are very fortunate in or industry we have very good retailers. To get to the consumer we need to go through a shopper and to get to the shopper we need to go through the retailer.”

He told how it was a changing relationship, and listed Hillsborough, child sex scandals, the banking collapse and Westminster expenses as part of the issue. “There has been a great erosion of trust over the last 10 years. We cannot trust our bankers, we cannot trust the police, we cannot trust MPs, we cannot trust the BBC or the church. We are in this post-truth era where it can be too easy to have a pop. 

“Take Tesco, people love to have a go at it. If it charges more than Sainsbury’s it is ripping off customers, if it is charging the same it is price fixing and if it is charging less that’s unfair competition. It is really easy to have a go, and a lot of people out there think if something is big it is evil. 

“You would also think Aldi and Lidl have wiped the floor with them. What gets reported is the growth, which is extremely progressive, but market share when put together is only 12 per cent. We are still doing most of our shopping in the big four.”

All are supplied from Grimsby, with Morrisons having their own production plants here too.

“Stating how retailers’ priorities from suppliers are fill rate, on-time delivery, order accuracy, understanding of strategy and distribution channels, Mr Banks said: “These are the things best in class people provide.”

And ensuring products are right for the shops was also vital. “Make sure decisions are based on insights, be guided by data, it is really, really helpful,” he said. 

“You can do stuff that costs a lot of money and stuff that has a big effect. One thing you really can do, where you can make a difference and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, is think about packaging. Too often we see a boring wall of plastic, with unimaginative graphics and poor information given to the shopper and consumer. Why do I think it is important? Take a look at the top 20 innovations of the 20th century, most are not new products, they are just packaged better. 

“Put pressure on your packaging technologists and packaging suppliers to do things better for you. You won’t get it right first time, but keep working on it and eventually you will.”  

Jack Macintyre, lead analyst at GlobalData, covered another huge seafood market, eating out.

“The food service market is lucrative, it is growing and will continue to grow,” he said. “Seafood is well placed to offer healthy indulgence and choice to the whole proposition.”

Highlighting shellfish, with a continuing trend for sharing “messy fun dishes”, he said tapas-type dishes was definitely a way to drive sales. “It is a great protein to offer experimentation through smaller portions,” he said.

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