Marine Harvest Pieters, the processor located in the Belgian city of Bruges, puts a lot of energy into innovation, says plant manager Pieter Note.
“We constantly develop new products. That is what our customers demand from us, with the focus on quality and health next to great taste and convenience.”
History of Marine Harvest Pieters1953: Start-up of Pieters Visbedrijf in Zeebrugge by Jérôme Pieters 1976 Movement from Zeebrugge to the current location in Bruges. 1982 Acquisition of the 'Pandalus' company, and change to production of breaded products. 1987 Start of logistics in Namur. Gilbert Pieters is now the only shareholder of the Pieters family. 1989 Start of logistics in Londerzeel. Acquisition of Demaro smokehouse and integration in the site in Bruges. 1991 Acquisition of a salmon farm in Scotland (Isle of Lewis): Start of WISCO. Founding of the Pieters group. 1995 25% shareholding in Bylgja (whitefish processor in Iceland). 1997 25% stake in Ny Fiskur (fresh fish processor in Iceland). Acquisition of LMB (Boulogne-sur-Mer, FR). End of 1997: Gilbert Pieters sells the Pieters group to Industri Kapital (IK). Frank Tierenteyn becomes CEO of the Pieters group. 1999 Acquisition of Appéti' Marine (Duinkerke, FR) and Rolmer (Challans, FR). 2000 Sale of the Group by IK to the Norwegian companies Domstein & Fjord Seafood (50/50). 2001 Purchase of Dimo and Gebroeders Sterk BV (Lemmer, NL). The company’s organization becomes country-based. 2002 Pieters becomes a 100% subsidiary of Fjord Seafood ASA. 2003 Sale of the WISCO activities to Fjord Seafood. 2004 Organisational change from country-based structure to Fjord Seafood European sales & operations structure. 2006 Acquisition of Ultra Frais Boulogne-sur-Mer and UF Lorient. At the end of 2006: merger of three companies (Pan Fish BV, Marine Harvest ASA & Fjord Seafood) into the new Marine Harvest group. Organizational change to a divisional structure (MH VAP). MH Poland and several French companies are now part of the new European MH VAP division. 2007: Integration of the Bruges smoking activities into the Ostend smokehouse. 2012: Transfer of the breaded production from Bruges to Lemmer (NL). 2013: Acquisition of Morpol by Marine Harvest. MH VAP becomes Marine Harvest Consumer Products (VAP Europe + Morpol).
It is of the utmost importance to keep consumers interested in fish, says Note.
“To achieve this, quality and product innovation are essential. We have our own product development team, with a test kitchen. The starting point of all developments is the consumer.”
“We look at the whole process, including packaging and shelf life. We have to be the market leader in all these aspects,” he continues. “We involve everyone in our company in tastings. We do that during lunch, and people really like that. We also regularly give them new products to take home to try, with a feedback questionnaire.”
The importance of salmon burgers and pangasius
Jérôme Pieters, who founded the company in 1953, was originally a nurse and social worker, but he visited the fish auction in Zeebrugge regularly, and saw how lots of fish went bad and had to be thrown away, because there was no sufficient transportation.
“Jérôme Pieters used to say: ‘If you want to sell fish, you need two things: fish and good logistics’. So he decided to arrange for transportation of fish by rail, and later by trucks. At one point, our company owned 35 trucks.”
Around 1989 Pieters realized the importance of salmon. “The company bought a salmon farm in Scotland’s Western Isles, and also got involved in Icelandic fish processing companies.”
Now, salmon accounts for 40 percent of production at Marine Harvest Pieters. Another important product for the company is pangasius.
“We process 2000 tons of ASC-certified pangasius each year, 1500 tons of this in the Netherlands. We control the complete supply chain, in long-term partnership with our top-quality supplier in Vietnam.”
It is important to be able to offer the complete range, in regard to price also, Note explains. “If you don’t offer mid-price fish species as well, consumers will turn to meat. That is why, as a fish supplier, you also need products like pangasius and fish burgers.”