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A progressing industry

Evolving and keeping up with customer demands will help strengthen and future-proof our industry, says Kingfisher’s Craig Maw

After spending a full day in April on the phone to the press and various radio stations, with the hot topic to discuss the ‘reported drop in young customers not visiting fish and chip shops’, there were a lot of questions pointed towards our industry. Hopefully my representation was of benefit to the trade.

There are approximately 10,500 fish and chip shops in the UK that serve over half of all fish and chip meals. With annual portions of fish and chips sold in the UK at around 333.6m. Fish and chip shops serve the majority of these meals (53.1%)

It is without doubt that standards in the fish and chip industry are rising. Is our industry getting stronger? I think so, but we have to continue to evolve and keep up with the demands of our customers. The key topics which I was questioned on by the media were:

Diet - what is the perception of fish and chips? Do we sell it as a nutritional meal one that can be eaten as part of a balanced diet?

Portion sizes - do you offer a different portion sizes to cater for various age groups?  For example, at Kingfisher we offer four sizes of fish which includes kids, light bite, regular and large, and this is the same with chips. Are your portion sizes close to the national average and those recommended by Seafish?

Various species - are you providing greater choice in seafood species in order to maintain customer interest.

Snacks - more people are tending to graze and eat lighter snacks. So there are snacking opportunities especially at lunch times. Opportunities exist to attract more, younger consumers to fish and chips by expanding sales on days other than Friday and Saturday and increase the number of lunchtime and snacking meal occasions.

Sustainability - are we serving and promoting sustainable seafood and protecting the future of our industry and, therefore, the nation’s favourite dish.

Each one of these is a subject in their own right and I could talk at length about any one of them, but I can only touch on them briefly here otherwise I will far exceed my word count! But what it shows is that there are more opportunities to improve our market share and sales.

Price will always be a key factor for shoppers, along with quality. But the desire for innovation and excitement is high with many consumers. Meal deals are expected as standard, so too is providing interest in health, provenance and sustainability. Encouraging younger consumers to our businesses by following the issues raised above could help your business and our industry.

With choice and convenience underlying factors, it seems that we have our work cut out. But we have an amazing product in fish and chips and some great shops too. So if we are going to keep up with current trends and eating habits, we have to evolve and move with the times.

We know everyone loves fish and chips, and we know it runs through the veins of the nation. But we can’t take it for granted. We have to continually reevaluate everything we do, especially when we have the likes of McDonald’s and KFC conducting delivery trials. The burger chain has already said it will be “starting small, learning quickly and scaling up very quickly”. Even these giants who had the “build it and they will come” philosophy need to move with the times. I am not suggesting that we should all start a delivery service, just merely putting it forward as an example of business evolution. 

Our fantastic industry is evolving, getting better and stronger, as are the shops and the people within them. It excites us to see where the shops of tomorrow will take fish and chips in the future.

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