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Pollock will make up 80% of Birds Eye’s fishfinger business by 2010

By Sarah Britton , 03-Sep-2007

Pressure to use sustainable fish will see fishfinger giant Birds Eye become dependent on pollock within three years, according to the company.

The development follows the company’s announcement last month that it was planning to replace cod with pollock in some of its fishfingers.

Currently, the Permira-owned brand is heavily reliant on Atlantic cod, representing 60% of the business, but customer marketing director Marc Kernick claimed that it was time to move on. There is now 15% less supply of Atlantic cod than there was in 2004, he said. “It’s a bit like a house of cards. Other fisheries will start closing and you’ll get cut off.”

He claimed: “We are planning to have a bakes launch next year, which will feature pollock. We expect pollock to be 70-80% of our business by 2010.”

However, it is not a simple switch. “Sustainability doesn’t affect purchasing behaviour. We wish it did!” said Kernick. “Research shows that 85% of consumers are concerned about falling fish stocks, but they want the government or someone else to do something about it.”

Despite their concerns over sustainability, consumers are not keen on the word ‘pollock’. Birds Eye has therefore decided to focus on the species’ natural health benefits instead, launching Omega-3 Fishfingers (the species itself is only mentioned on the back of packs).

The new product would retail at the same price per fishfinger as its cod counterparts, as a lower cost would indicate an inferior product, claimed the firm. “One of the key lessons we have learnt is not to compare pollock to cod and don’t use a low price to get people to switch - consumers will think there is something wrong with the product and will stay away from it,” said Kernick.

Birds Eye was confident that the omega-3 focus would help combat misconceptions that fishfingers were unhealthy.

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