Made in Manchester for sale on the continent

by Thomas Jensen
EM2 18 PRO Seamark

The relaunched seafood cocktail is now mixed and packed at the Seamark facility in Manchester to customers’ specifications.

Seamark supplies frozen fish and seafood sourced from different countries around the world to customers in continental Europe and the UK.

Seamark started life as a grocery store selling meat, vegetables, and fish to consumers in the UK in the mid-70s. Today it is a multinational company with operations in the UK, USA and Bangladesh, suppliers across Asia, and well-known product brands. Frozen warm water shrimp of various kinds – freshwater, black tiger, and vannamei – are the company’s speciality, but it also distributes squid, scallops, seafood mixes, pangasius, tilapia and seabass, to wholesalers, retailers, industry, as well as the food service sector.

Among the first to introduce black tiger shrimp into the European markets

In 2017 the company introduced EBI sushi (butterflied shrimp), nobashi, premium seafood mix and mussels to its portfolio of products and this year a new range of value added items will be launched at the Seafood Expo Global in Brussels in April. Since 1991, when it was established, the company has always dealt in shrimp frozen in blocks, semi-IQF and the capacity to process, IQF (individually quick-frozen) in Manchester. Sister company, Ibco, deals in frozen fish (as well as vegetables and pastries) for supermarkets and Asian or Afro-Caribbean markets in the UK, tailoring its products in terms of glazes, species, and pack sizes to the different requirements set by these customers. In general, Ibco deals with ethnic customers and typically smaller quantities in the UK and Europe, while Seamark exports some 80% of its production, while the remainder goes to wholesalers and the food service sector in the UK, and the volumes tend to be much larger. The products offered by the two companies are different, and UK clients therefore sometimes buy from both Seamark and Ibco.

New innovative line of products to be launched at SEG, Brussels

Continental Europe though is Seamark’s main market and their brands, Tiger, Lilly, Mr Prawn, are all better known on the continent. The Seamark sales team is diverse, knowledgeable and speaks a variety of languages. Continental European countries such as the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Italy are important markets for the company, which is now making a push into Eastern Europe, where eating habits are changing, and shrimp is getting more popular. The importance of Europe for the company also means it is closely following developments in the Brexit negotiations. Senior management is well aware of the possible implications of Brexit and has already put plans into place that should cover any eventuality. We are well aware of the possible impact on our company, but are fully committed to our customers both existing and potential, whatever the outcome, says Ms Nahid, the Seamark sales director.


Own production infrastructure in Bangladesh

The raw material comes primarily from Asia, though Seamark also buys scallops in the United States. In Bangladesh the Group has trawlers and production facilities which operate as separate entities from Seamark UK. This upstream integration in one group, explains Nahid, allows Seamark to customise products precisely to its clients’ requirements. Bangladesh has a delta fed by three large rivers as well as close to 600 km of marine coastline. These resources support marine and inland capture fisheries, and freshwater and coastal aquaculture. While some 24 species of shrimp are known to exist in the country’s fresh water, catches here are negligible. In the sea, trawlers target shrimp, but catch volumes are a small fraction of the total. The real source of shrimp in Bangladesh is the aquaculture sector which farms shrimp in coastal systems. The black tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) and giant freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) are the two most commonly farmed species. Seamark’s trawlers catch wild shrimp and block freeze them on board. Aquaculture shrimp are cultivated on coastal water, maintaining natural environments for the shrimp and using natural feed where possible.

In Chittagong, Bangladesh the company has a processing plant that supplies the UK operation in Manchester, where Seamark has two processing facilities to further process or package products. The peeling, heading, deveining etc. is done in Bangladesh and the product is then block frozen and sent to the UK, where it could be cooked or blanched and then IQ frozen and packaged. Skewers and breaded products are also prepared at the Bangladesh plant, frozen, and sent to the UK. The facility in Manchester allows the company to quickly fulfil a customer’s requirements for a certain kind of glaze or packaging. The new product line that will be launched at the SEG will use the shrimp to create a more sophisticated offering that, according to Ms Nahid, has not been seen on the European market.

Wide range of seafood to cater to all markets

While shrimp, and particularly black tiger, is the most important product line for the company, a new seafood mix that was launched last year is also doing well. The composition is new and it is being mixed as well as packed in Manchester rather than being bought in ready mixed as in the past. Squid rings and tubes, and fillets of pangasius, tilapia, and seabass complete the company’s range of core products. Being able to offer a wide range of products at different price levels is useful in more ways than one. We have an extensive range of seafood, and are continually adding more to our assortment, says Ms Nahid. We want to build a relationship with our customers and support small and medium size companies with all their seafood requirements.

With a fully integrated operation in Bangladesh including vessels and processing, and another two processing and packing facilities in the UK, Seamark is well placed to respond to changes in the market or to demands from individual customers quickly and efficiently.

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