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Viciunai sees 5% European surimi market growth in 2019

Managing director says Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Holland should all see higher sales.

Surimi seafood giant Viciunai says it expects to see 5 percent growth across European surimi markets this year, except in France where the market is blighted by negative consumer perceptions.

“Consumption in surimi in general is growing also in Asian markets, European markets. Demand is higher, therefore, prices will go up,” Viciunai Managing Director Rob Schreur told IntraFish. “[There are] general increases in sales that’s fact.”

The Viciunai boss said Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Holland should all see higher sales, as well as central Europe where the company is now selling a chilled surimi shrimp product in oil and brine, which has so far proved successful in all markets, including the United Kingdom, where it now being trialed.

Viciunai said it is engaged in a public information campaign in conjunction with supermarket retailers aimed at changing misconceptions about surimi. The campaign stresses that surimi is a healthy natural product that is high in protein and low in fat.

French decline

From an earlier peak of 56,000 metric tons, Schreur said he expects French market demand to shrink about 10 percent this year to around 44,000 metric tons.

He attributes this to French consumers' dislike of lower-grade raw materials and cheaper ingredients such as starch and egg whites used by some producers as retailers squeeze their margins.

Last year French food processor Fleury Michon unepectedly bucked the shrinking market trend reporting 5.6 percent growth in surimi.

Despite tough market conditions in France, Schreur said he expects the European surimi market overall, including the United Kingdom to roughly reach between 120,000 and 125,000 metric tons this year.

“I think it will grow almost 5 percent,” he said.

Schreur’s view of the market in France contrasts with others who say that a lack of innovation has stifled sales growth in recent years.

“The French market is open to innovation” he said.

Retailers’ impatience with new products has been cited as a factor hindering sales.

German potential

Across the border in the 10,000-metric-tons-a-year German market Schreur sees much stronger growth potential.

“In France they were eating around 1 kilo per person per year. If you compare that with Germany, Germany is not even 150 grams per person per year.”

Tabloid newspaper coverage of surimi previously damaged consumption in Germany but Schreur said the tide is turning.

“There are a lot of misperceptions still but we are now getting that back as well,” he said. “As market leader we need to grow the market.”

Taking into account other products such as cod, mackerel, salmon, as well as surimi, Schreur said he expects the $600 million (€535 million) Viciunai group to see between 12 and 15 percent growth in 2019. He said, 2018 was a record year for the company but he expects Viciunai will set a new record this year.

This may be easier to achieve for sales volumes than it will be for gross profit, which is likely to come under pressure from higher raw material prices that can only be passed on once fixed-term contracts expire.

Rising demand for wild-caught fish from developing countries such as India and Brazil means the days of cheap fish have gone, while salmon prices are moving back to “reasonable levels” after a prolonged period of high numbers in Schreur’s view

“Wild-caught fish will only get more expensive in the future. It will never go down anymore.”

Aside from Europe Viciunai sees increasing opportunities in Asian markets for all of its products, including for the “Vici” brand and from the opening of a new Korean style dumpling factory.

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