Fish is the dish

A specialist in processing frozen seafood products, Northcoast Seafoods is expanding at a rapid pace and looking to move to its new home in May 2019

There is a saying that when the facts speak, even the gods remain silent. One undisputable fact is that since 2000, the year when Northcoast Seafoods was established, the specialist in sourcing and processing frozen seafood products has grown from a one-man band with a turnover of £1.5 million to a 100-strong staff business, whose revenue now approaches £150 million annually. Founded by Fridrik Thorsteinsson – a man who ‘came from the land of ice and snow, from the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow’ (as Led Zeppelin would have it), Northcoast Seafoods was set up shortly after Fridrik had arrived to the UK from Iceland. He partnered with one of the strongest seafood companies in Denmark – Kangamiut Group, operating as a sales and marketing company first for cold water prawns only, and since 2006, for whitefish and other seafood products, too. It was at the same time that the business opened an office in Denmark where it merged all of its European sales. Shortly after, it became a leading importer in both the UK and Europe, gaining access to raw material from places like Canada, Newfoundland, Iceland, and Asia.

“Another turning point for us came in 2012 when we started emphasising on doing business directly with retailers. Today, 80 per cent of our UK business comes from retail,” Fridrik points out. “We have created the Fishmonger’s Favourite brand to present a new offering in retail frozen seafood. Critical to our success is that we work closely with our customers to provide them with products that accurately reflect market needs. Launched in 2016, a year later the brand picked up the Gold Award for Best New Fish-based Retail Product, as well as Retail Product of the Year for its Two Salmon and King Prawn Stacks, at the BFFF Annual Awards.”

In a key move to optimise its operation, Northcoast Seafoods acquired its long-standing packaging partner Ambassador in September 2018, aiming to take more control of production. This was followed by an eight-figure cash injection from HSBC for the renovation of a 40,000 square feet processing plant in Grimsby that will accommodate all of Northcoast Seafoods’ UK activities under one roof, including the work done by Ambassador.

“We are planning to move into the new facility in May next year,” reports Fridrik. “It will involve a wide range of equipment, such as pillow bag machines and tray packing machines. These will improve our capability of making value-added products, where, for example, we can add sauces to the seafood.”

A unique provider
The acquisition of Ambassador and the subsequent renovation of Northcoast Seafoods’ new facility was yet another step taken by the firm towards establishing a fully vertically-integrated business model. “We regard ourselves as a unique provider, because we are so close to the source of the raw material, meaning that we can always guarantee the highest quality of our products,” Fridrik discusses. “Our vision is to be a one-stop shop for frozen seafood and the latest investments we have made are strengthening our position considerably. The excellent relationship we have with our supply base helps us immensely in our quest. We are already importing a vast majority of the different types of frozen seafood products that enter the UK and we are the provider that stays closest to its supply chain, which gives us a clear advantage over our competitors.”

Commenting on the prevalent consumer trends of the day, Fridrik singles out people’s growing interest in trying more exotic and innovative seafood dishes. “It is evident from our observations that there is a growing demand for value-added products that allow consumers to sample more exciting recipes, such as the aforementioned meals that include various sauces. For instance, we offer Coquille Thermidor in a creamy white wine sauce that is proving especially 73sought-after by customers. Of course, seafood as a whole is also very rich in protein and therefore remains a popular choice for many a consumer due to its health benefits.”

Growth ambitions manifest themselves clearly through the sizable investments Northcoast Seafoods has placed. The intention to relocate to a new facility also indicates that the company is seeking to future-proof itself. In addition, it can rely heavily on the support of the Kangamuit group of which it is part. “The organisation is a major player in sourcing cod and haddock, in particular, which gives us access to whitefish of the highest quality, sourced from the Barents Sea. We are very proud to operate under such a reputable group like Kangamuit and we are confident that we’ll enjoy continued success in the years to come,” Fridrik concludes.