Young’s Seafood back in black but braced for demanding 2012

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YOUNG’S Seafood moved back into profit last year, but the company warned that it was braced for a “demanding” 2012 as consumers tighten their belts.

The Grimsby-based firm, which employs 3,200 people around Britain, hopes its links with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver will help to boost sales at a time of economic uncertainty.

The company’s profit on ordinary activities before taxation was £7.4m in 2010. This was a big improvement on the trading performance recorded in the 15 months to December 31, 2009, when it posted a loss of £6.3m.

Young’s chief executive Leendert den Hollander told the Yorkshire Post yesterday: “Clearly a new reality in the macro-economic environment unfolded this year.

“Our assumption is that this will continue in 2012 and that the year will be just as demanding as 2011.

“We are dealing with this through cost management, operating more efficiently, and driving our top-line through a pipeline of innovations as part of our vision of inspiring consumers to eat fish at least twice a week.”

In 2010, Young’s Seafood had a turnover of £342.5m, compared with £448m in the previous 15 months.

The company’s operating profit last year was £17m. In the 15 months to December 31, 2009, Young’s achieved an operating profit of £3.7m.

In a statement to accompany its financial results, the company said the UK seafood market in 2010 had been level in value with 2009.

During the course of 2011, Young’s Seafood launched a number of products, including Jamie Oliver by Young’s, and the Chip Shop breaded range using Kingsmill breadcrumbs.

Mr den Hollander said he would like to see government action to support business in local communities “as our business is spread across the country”.

He said: “Consumers are looking for ever better value and products that give them inspiration and confidence in cooking at home.

“Retailers are also focused on getting value right through pricing and promotions. Our focus is on driving value for consumers across our portfolio of chilled and frozen, brand and private label fish and seafood.

“Innovation and new products are instrumental in this strategy.”

Mr den Hollander added: “The launch of the Jamie Oliver by Young’s range in autumn 2011 is off to a good start and is helping to attract more consumers to the fish and seafood category.”

In February 2011, Young’s Seafood, The Seafood Company and Findus UK were brought together under a common management structure, combining Findus Group’s frozen and chilled operations in the UK.

A company spokesman said: “By bringing these businesses together, Young’s Seafood provides frozen and chilled, own-label and branded fish and seafood, with an annual turnover of around £600m.

“Following the combination of these companies, the business now operates under the name of Young’s Seafood.

“During the year the company successfully implemented a wide range of initiatives to improve gross margins from the 2009 level of 10.8 per cent. Consequently, margins rose to 13.5 per cent in 2010.”

Young’s said trading for the current year had continued to be challenging due to a range of factors such as raw material inflation, aggressive competition and pressure on margins from promotions.

Young’s, which dates from 1805, employs 1,700 people in Grimsby, home to its manufacturing and new product development centre of excellence.

The Grimsby operations are the biggest seafood hub in the UK, producing around 65,000 tonnes of fish products a year.

In October, there was speculation that Young’s Seafood was about to be put up for sale by its private equity parent, in a deal worth millions of pounds.

The reports said private equity firm Lion Capital had appointed financial advisers Rothschild to evaluate Young’s, and its sister firm The Seafood Company, in a strategic review of their parent, Findus Group.

At the time, Mr den Hollander played down the reports, saying: “This is all media speculation and it is business as usual for us here at Young’s Seafood.”

A spokesman for Lion Capital said in October: “Lion Capital is fully supportive of the strategy being pursued by Young’s Seafood, now the UK’s leading supplier of chilled and frozen, own-label and branded fish and seafood to UK customers and consumers.”

SUSTAINABILITY ON COMPANY’S MENU

Young’s Seafood is keen to promote responsible fishing. In a statement on its website, the firm said: “We support independent certification schemes, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), because these are an important route to the worldwide application of scientifically-endorsed sustainability standards.”

The company, which has supported the MSC since 1997, added: “We aim to buy all our wild-caught seafood for Young’s from fisheries independently certified to the MSC standards by 2012.”