UK seafood giant Young's casts its net to China after US expansion

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

Young’s Seafood is in the midst of talks with potential partners to export its seafood products to China. ©GettyImages
Young’s Seafood is in the midst of talks with potential partners to export its seafood products to China. ©GettyImages

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Just a little more than a week after expanding its reach in US stores, the UK's largest seafood firm Young's is eyeing its next mega market — China.

Young’s Seafood chief executive William Showalter said the company is in the midst of talks with potential partners to begin exporting its processed seafood products to China.

“We see China as a big opportunity,”​ Showalter told the Press Association.

“We are exploring discussions with partners in that market and we would look to deploy a similar model to the one that we are using in the US."

In the US, Young’s Seafood partnered with frozen fish supplier The Fishin’ Company to bring its seafood products to Walmart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club, as well as several grocery chains under Dutch-based multi-national Ahold Delhaize.

Young’s range of seafood products are now available in more than 14,000 stores in the US.

According to Young’s Seafood sales director Frank Green, its products had new packaging more greatly emphasising British provenance as they believed it to be a key selling point in the US, just as it is at home across the Atlantic.

It remains to be seen if the same branding strategy will be used in China, but it could build brand strength as China-made food products have been hit by raft of scandals in recent times.

After China, Showalter said continental Europe is "probably next on our list"​.

When Young’s Seafood sold its continental European business to Nomad Foods in 2015, the agreement was not to sell frozen products in any of the markets its Findus brand business was in. Showalter pointed out that the restriction expires in November 2018.

Speculation intensifies

Meanwhile, it was reported in December that the company’s private equity owners were working with boutique investment house Stamford Partners on a potential exit.

The sale process could kick off as soon as March, a source told Undercurrent News​ at the start of the month. 

Showalter had said to the Press Association: “I am not announcing any sales processes or reacting to some of the media speculation that has been out there, but I think it would not take a huge leap of faith for somebody to expect that at some point in the not too distant future the current owners of the company would look at what their strategic alternatives were.”

The Grimsby-based seafood firm was bought over by Lion Capital, Bain Capital and HPS Investment Partners from CapVest in 2008 as part of a £1.1b takeover, including the Findus brands.

In 2015, Lion Capital struck a deal to sell the European arm of Findus to Birds Eye brand owner Nomad Foods.

Based on accounts filed with business registrar The Companies House, Young’s Seafood had a turnover of £496.5m last year, with earnings of £21.2m. 

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