Ahead of the Christmas rush, JCS Fish founder Andrew Coulbeck reflects on ups (and downs) after 44 years in the salmon industry.
The family-owned seafood company based in Grimsby knows a thing or two about salmon. JCS Fish turns over around GBP 6 million a year and was one of the first to pioneer salmon flavouring in the UK.
Coulbeck started in family business at the tender age of 16. But it was in his early thirties, he started working for Jack Carlisle Smith of Jack Smith Ltd, a subsidiary of his father’s company, Richard Coulbeck. Smith passed on his wealth of knowledge of fishing, which in turn inspired the young founder to name the company after the initials of his old boss, JCS.
Last year, you enjoyed a growth in organic sales – along with the new organic smokehouse, is this a segment you see growing?
“Around ten years ago, we tried to push organic to consumers but people weren’t that interested. It’s only in the last three years that organic has taken off in a big way. Our organic non-smoked fillets have done very well these past few years so it was natural for us to move into smoked organic, it just required us to get full Organic certification for the new smokehouse,” explained Coulbeck.
“However, organic is still very difficult to get hold of. So it still only plays a small percentage of all the salmon we produce, but we will continue with it and push it.”
There has been a lot of differences in prices of salmon over the years – to record highs and more recently lows.
“With salmon prices, the farms never really give anything away. They will either say there’s a shortage or they’ve got lots and then we know the price is going to ease somewhat.
“In 2016-17, prices went up to a point when we were just breaking even, and even then it carried on going up and up and up. Even a couple of salmon farm sales people said to me, “Andrew, I don’t think it can go up much more”, but it did and it was frightening. I can remember thinking at one point that we were doomed – if prices continue to rise at this rate the salmon farms won’t have any more customers,” recounted Coulbeck.
Suppliers and buying
When sourcing, JCS use a mixture of Nordic and home-grown fish.
“We source the vast majority of our fish from Scotland, though we do buy occasionally from Norway. We have great relationships with our Scottish suppliers and buying from Scotland means we can order the day before, whereas Scandinavia needs five days planning,” he added.
“We need our farms to have all the accreditations – we want them to be as transparent with us as we are with our customers. The ones we deal with have excellent reputations. We like them to have the same values and culture that support the standards we set for our business.”
“This year we also took the decision that all our BigFish brand standard salmon products are made only with fish from GGN (GlobalG.A.P.) certified farms.”