He’s been with ingredients company Kerry Group for 18 years, working across retail and foodservice, and now he’s looking after the fish and chip shop sector. We speak to business unit director Brian MacNeice about the move 18 months ago, his take on the industry and where he thinks the opportunities are
How have you seen the foodservice market change?
The foodservice market changes as the consumers needs and demands change. In the last 10 years, there have been many factors that have affected what the consumer wants. Government regulations and the power of the media have made the consumer more health conscious and at the same time people have travelled more and tasted new cuisines. These changes, among others, have influenced the types of food available to us, the restaurants we see on the high street and the ingredients we use to meet all the new food regulations.
Why the move into fish and chips?
An opportunity came up with the retirement of David Lovell who had built a great business for Kerry in the fish and chips market. I could see that we had market leading brands and high quality products, but most importantly there was a great sales team in place with loads of experience and fantastic enthusiasm for the fish and chips market. I was really impressed with the relationship we had with both the shops and the distributors, and the genuine desire to provide a great service to the trade. Our aim is to help shops make the best quality fish and chips with our brands, and attract more customers into their shops.
How do you see the fish and chip market?
The fish and chip market is worth £1.2bn and growing at 2.4% in line with the UK foodservice market. Eating fish and chips on a Friday night or by the sea is a British institution, it’s just what we do. This consumer behaviour has created a demand that has made the fish and chip market remarkably resilient and I have heard it said that it is recession proof!
In fast food, the fish and chip market is unique in that it doesn’t have a direct national restaurant chain in competition with the independents. Other sectors haven’t got that luxury, take the independent pizza market for example, which has to deal with the big chains every day.
What’s Kerry’s role in taking the fish and chip industry forward?
The Frying Squad has supported and advised fish and chip shops for many years on how to deliver the best quality batters, curries and gravies. Providing this service is at the heart of what we do, but innovation is key and we are continually investing in research and development to provide the product solutions that are fit for the future.
A great example of this is the launch of Goldensheaf Smart Batter. Born out of the insight that consumers perceive fish and chips as ‘unhealthy’, we designed a new batter that absorbs less oil and therefore makes the end product both healthier and crispier. We have been delighted with the uptake of the product and the fantastic feedback we have received from shops.
"Businesses like Greene King, McDonald’s and KFC all go on ‘food safaris’ where they eat the streets looking for new ideas, flavours and trends with a view to understanding if they are relevant to their businesses."
Can we expect more innovation from Kerry?
Absolutely. Kerry have been leaders in innovation and we are always trying to find solutions to help shops maximise their sales and profit. Last year, we launched 10 new products into the portfolio and we have plans for a further four this year. The next launch you will see is a new Goldensheaf Gluten Free Batter which will be available in May. We have worked hard to develop a gluten free batter that performs to the same quality standards as a normal Goldensheaf product, so please ask for a sample to try from your Kerry sales manager.
How can you help shops maximise returns?
What makes Kerry different is our ability to understand consumer trends and to advise fish and chip shops on all parts of their menu. In the last year, we have consolidated all our fast food branded offering into one portfolio so we are now able to advise and provide solutions to shops who fry chicken, to shops that sell burgers and sides, to shops in Scotland who sell Smokies (smoked haddock), and we can even help shops who offer soft serve ice cream.
Based on consumer trends we have selected loaded chips, sides and smokies as areas where we can help shops increase profits and have developed point of sale and profit calculators to demonstrate how additional money can be made.
What do you see as the big trends and how can Kerry help shops tap into them?
In my opinion, the two big consumer challenges facing the fish and chip market are home delivery and tackling the perception of health. Home delivery is here to stay and it has already become a factor when consumers are deciding which takeaway they want to order. The key issue for fish and chip shops is both the cost and the quality of the product when opened at home. As an ingredient manufacturer, we realised that we needed to do more and the launch of Goldensheaf Smart Batter is our solution to both issues. As Smart Batter absorbs less oil, it is healthier and stays crisp longer. It is not the only answer to tackle these challenges, packaging, portion size, online technology and industry awareness also play a part, but the ingredient element is the part that Kerry can control.
What can our industry learn from foodservice?
Foodservice is a very diverse market and there are always new trends to understand. Innovation and trends almost always start in the independent foodservice sector so it’s always good to keep an eye on your local competition to see what is going on. Businesses like Greene King, McDonald’s and KFC all go on ‘food safaris’ where they eat the streets looking for new ideas, flavours and trends with a view to understanding if they are relevant to their businesses. But, ultimately, the businesses that really succeed are the ones that focus on being great at one thing. For example, Nando’s is famous for Piri Piri chicken. It therefore follows that fish and chips shops should remain focused on delivering the best fish and chips and should innovate around the core of their business.
And, finally, how do you like your fish and chips?
My first memories of having fish and chips were on holiday in Bundoran, Co. Donegal. There was a small shop close to where we stayed and my job was to take the list and order dinner for the family. The order was straight forward, two large and two small cod and chips with salt and vinegar. I have fond memories of carrying the steaming hot bag of food home, unwrapping it on the kitchen table, getting the ketchup out and getting stuck in.
Now that I have had the opportunity to eat in fish and chip shops up and down the country, I have to admit that I like to sit down and eat in, must be my age! I prefer cod - I like the loin - in Henry Jones Gold and I always go for a pot of curry to dip my chips in, Dinaclass Irish, obviously!