Seafood giant's £7m turnaround joy as Tesco and transformation delivers

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 7 Oct 2016

GRIMSBY seafood giant Icelandic Seachill has set a course for huge growth, turning a £3 million operating loss in 2014 into a £4.3 million profit.

The success of the Grimsby colossus comes on the back of major organisational changes, while riding the wave of the equally phenomenal turnaround at key customer – Tesco.

It has seen 200,000 more people entering its stores, and it seems many are heading for the seafood aisles, where the three town factories produce the goods, including the UK's biggest selling seafood product, a pack of two Tesco chilled salmon fillets.

The announcement will come as a huge boost to the 1,400 town workers and crucial supply chain after a significant period of concern.

Icelandic is one of a core group of suppliers to Tesco, and has won major work with the leading supermarket, including a significant fish cake contract. The under-scrutiny retailer is also understood to be improving relations with those who ensure its shelves are stocked, boosting confidence across the industry.

And despite the loss of Marks & Spencer's work, forcing some redundancies and a further restructure - confirmed as 86 in August - Icelandic's performance is continuing to improve this financial year.

Simon Smith, chief executive, said: "2015 marked a huge turnaround in the business and we have continued with that in 2016.

"We have underpinned our business with a very strong agreement with Tesco and it is the resilience and strength of that business now that has helped with the M&S issue. We are really confident about the future and in a really good place."

The results were announced on the eve of Seafood Week, starting today, with Mr Smith a guest at the launch of a new seafood recipe booklet from Seafish, the industry authority.

Town rival Young's Seafood has also launched an exclusive range with Grimsby's newest retailer, The Food Warehouse by Iceland.

Reflecting on the Icelandic Seachill operating figures, which represent a swing of £7.3 million in the financial year, Mr Smith said: "2016 will grow on that, and looking at what we have, 2017 will see growth continue.

"It really all stems back to the changes we have been making for a number of years now, bringing the individual businesses together. It has given us stability and security to deal with any bumps in the road."

Coldwater and Seachill operated as separate companies prior to a major review in spring 2013.

Respective managing directors Anita Barker and Malcolm Eley both left the business in a short space of time, with Mr Smith emerging at the helm of the enlarged operation. 

The company's star range, The Saucy Fish Co, recently launched in Canada, with 349 outlets listing the perennial Coolbrand as it launched by the company back in 2010. Mr Smith, who has a strong marketing background, had been a key figure in its development. 

Icelandic Seachill works across three sites, two on South Humberside Industrial Estate and one on Great Grimsby Business Park, and is entirely based in Grimsby, while in Icelandic ownership. As reported in April, the wider Icelandic Group of which Icelandic Seachill is the largest contributor, had also returned to profit.

Despite the remarkable turnaround, the company still intends to close the Deli site on Estate Road Five, as a result of Marks and Spencer's decision, with the bulk of that work picked up by Five Star Fish.

"We will continue producing in there until March," Mr Smith said. "M&S products will continue there until the end of this year, and we are making a lot of sauce products there for our other sites. It plays a role in the fish cake contract with Tesco as well as with Saucy Fish Co. We will be transferring elements of production in to the Coated site (on Estate Road Two) in January and February, and once that is ready to go we will be mothballing the Deli site."

MORE: Young's Seafood joins forces with Iceland's new concept, The Food Warehouse, to launch new range.

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