Direct Seafoods: “We pretty much cover the whole country”

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“There’s always been an expectation that salmon is a good value. And then the price went through the roof. Some chefs were not happy with that”.

In a phone call from its depot in Bermondsey, London, Direct Seafood Director of Sustainability & Epicurean Laky Zervudachi explained it sources fish that’ll end up on the plates of some of the biggest customers on the market.

Bidfresh was created in 2010 when the South African services, trading, and distribution company Bidvest purchased Seafood Holdings. It is a subsidiary of the Bidcorp Group of which Bidfood is its trading division.

A common site in the UK, Bidfood is one of the largest food wholesalers in the UK. PHOTO: Owen Evans

Largest part
Zervudachi said that Bidfresh’s seafood division is the largest part of the company. The distributor has 10 locations which are located around the UK with 13 different fishmonger brands, such as Daily Fish Supplies, Southbank Fresh Fish and Campbells Brothers Fish.

“It’s grown over the years. When Bidvest took over, it was turning over GBP 80 million a year and now it’s grown to GBP 150 million,” explained Zervudachi.

On their books, Direct Seafoods supply fish to customers such as the hotel chain Hilton, caterers Sodexo and CH and Co, Carluccios, as well as Michelin star restaurants, the pub chain Fuller and much more. “We pretty much cover the whole country,” he said.

Zervudachi, a seafood veteran who has been in the seafood business for over 25 years,  explained that it was a huge operation, open six days a week.

“In the seafood division. there are about 600 -700 people mix of sales teams, admins, drivers from Monday to Saturday,” he said.

35-year seafood veteran Zervudachi. PHOTO: Direct Seafoods

HORECA
Unlike supermarkets, which order salmon on fixed six- to 12-month contracts, the pace of ordering seafood in the HORECA world is very different.

“Because we have a variety of customers. Some of the bigger customers may demand monthly pricing – some will demand quarterly pricing, some it’s weekly. With salmon, over the last few years, with the price being very high up until a few weeks ago and because it’s such an important ingredient to chefs and it’s been quite challenging,” said Zervudachi.

“There’s always been an expectation that salmon is a good value. And then the price went through the roof. Some chefs were not happy with that,” he added.

Other lines
Zervudachi explained how price differences impacted trends.

“In some ways that created a space to look at other things in the market and open it up for other lines. One that was particularly affected by the high salmon prices was Chalk Stream Trout, which is produced by a fish farmer in Hampshire, South England. A farmer started producing very large rainbow trout in fast-flowing pure chalk stream water. They were able to be more competitively priced than salmon and chefs liked that”.