Colin Burke, ESC md, told FoodManufacture.co.uk the firm had grown as large as it could on its own. “We have taken [ESC] from a turnover of £8M to £35M in five years. The sale of the company was needed in order to reach the next stage – growing turnover to £50M – by becoming more internationally focused and exporting far more product.”
The acquisition would allow ESC to use Merinvest’s extensive international contacts to supply growing salmon export markets such as Belgium, Germany, Poland and Russia, he said.
To supply those markets, ESC will open an extension to its Edinburgh production facility in June. The expansion will allow the firm to produce 4,500t of salmon products per year, up from its current capacity of 3,000t, said Burke.
Focusing on export markets will allow the firm to reach growth targets more quickly than concentrating on the domestic market would, claimed Burke.“My strategy is to have one retailer and look after it as best as possible. This strategy helped the company grow to £35M and will now help it to reach £50M.”
If the firm meets growth forecasts, it expects to add a further 100 jobs to its current workforce of about 200.
ESC began to expand its Edinburgh site two years ago due to increased domestic demand. In the UK, ESC currently supplies Pret A Manger, foodservice suppliers and retailer, Asda.
Meanwhile, UK exports of fish and seafood reached £1.5bn last year – a rise of 8.9% compared with 2010, according to the latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs.
Fresh fish exports were worth £466.3M last year, fuelled by growth to markets such as Poland, which doubled in size.
Salmon accounted for 75.2% of that total value, growing 29% from 2010.
Fish fillets also saw a 32.4% increase to a value of £210.2M, driven by an increase of 66.9% in exports to Germany – making it the third largest market for UK fillets.
Earlier this month, food and agriculture minister, Jim Paice said food and drink exports were vital to the UK’s economic recovery. Speaking at the Foodex exhibition in Birmingham, he said the food and drink industry was “essential” to the UK economy and praised it for its continued export growth.
Merinvest is a holding company for private equity firm, Azulis Capital. It also owns French seafood firm, Meralliance, which has a turnover of £75M and processes about 5,500t of seafood each year.
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