Friday, 29th September, 2017

Fish and Chips

Britain's love of fish and chips has sustained for nearly 160 years, and despite competition from other industries, operators remain defiant that fish and chips will continue to remain one of the UKs favourites. After all according to The National Federation of Fish Friers, the UK spend £1.2 billion on fish and chips annually.

Research by Attest puts fish and chips in the top five of consumers takeaway favourites, Seafish the UKs authority on fish sustainability agree, they say that fish and chip sales have increased 4.2% on last year to more than 336m servings. 

Witnessing this reinvigoration first hand are Nicci Mutton and Craig Maw, winners of the National Fish & Chip Shop Awards ‘Shop of the Year’ 2017.  Craig says:  “Since the mid nineteenth century fish and chips has positioned itself at the centre of the UK’s culinary stage. Recognised worldwide as our iconic national dish, many flock to the UK and have to sample fish & chips as part of the experience.” 

“With 10,500 fish & chip shops around the UK serving over half of all fish & chip meals and the rest sold by Restaurants, pubs and canteens.  Fish & chips are experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Gone are the days of just producing great fish & chips, the industry is moving into producing great fish & chips with style.”

With fish and chips now firmly at the top of news agenda thanks to the likes of The National Fish and Chip Awards, we investigate the reason behind their sustained popularity and what the future of the fish and chip industry holds.

Contributors

Mohammed Essa, General Manager UK & Ireland, Aviko, Lesley Graves, Owner, Burton Road Chippy , Craig Maw, Owner, KingFisher Fish & Chips, Nic Townsend, Marketing Manager, Farm Frites, Adrian Greaves, Foodservice Director, Young’s Foodservice, George Clark, MSC Senior Commercial Manager for the UK, James Ritchie, Director, Simpsons Fish and Chips.

How popular are fish and chips in the QSR/takeaway market? 

“A British classic, fish and chips are showing they are a strong contender in the takeaway market. With 327 million visits to fish and chip shops between February 2016 – 2017 it’s easy to see why they are favoured as a national dish,” says Mohammed Essa, General Manager UK & Ireland, Aviko.

“There may be heavy competition from a variety of takeaways available to consumers; however fish and chips is one of the healthier options when compared to burgers, pizza and kebabs, as well as a firm favourite with family diners.”

“In the potato world, chips and fries remain the heroes and their popularity shows no signs of flagging. When you consider there were a staggering 1.75 billion potato servings out-of-home in the year ending March 2016, it’s extremely important for fish and chip shops to get their chip offering right.”

Adrian Greaves, Foodservice Director, Young’s Foodservice explains; “Fish & chips is a British classic and will always remain one of the nation’s favourite dishes. It is known and loved for its simplicity of fresh fish coated in a crisp batter served with perfectly golden, fluffy chips. Quality fish, perfectly seasoned thick cut chips and any traditional accompaniment; from gravy, curry sauce or a tangy tartare sauce, all make for the best fish and chips. Of course, whatever condiment you choose, mushy peas are always welcome too!”

“Many restaurants and gastro pubs experiment with their fish and chips offering, from adding vodka to batter, triple cooking chips or using sweet potatoes and adding mint to mushy peas but when it comes down to it nothing beats the traditional chip shop style, where fish and chips is undoubtedly served at its best.”

Adrian concludes; “At Young’s, we offer an extensive range of sustainably sourced and high quality fish products for all areas of foodservice. We have specifically designed our King Frost and Chip Shop range with fast food industry in mind to help them recreate the perfectly crisp, succulent fish fillets consumers expect from their favourite takeaway.”

Why do fish and chips dishes remain popular in the UK? 

Craig Maw, owner of KingFisher Fish & Chips explains; “Through the year’s fish and chips have become engrained in our DNA. It is an amazing comfort food, it is nutritious and delicious, it is versatile it can be eaten walking down a street or ‘poshed’ up in a fancy restaurant.”

“Everyone can remember a time when eating fish and chips, putting them in an exact place and time. It creates memories for people, its very essence conjures up memories from the past and creates new ones for the future. Everyone loves fish and chips.”

“Fish and Chips are an extremely popular choice, whether it’s our children’s party packages, weddings, family celebrations or a treat for our local residential care homes, fish and chips are something that spans the generations,” explains Lesley Graves, owner of Burton Road Chippy.

“They remain popular in the UK as it is not only truly traditional, but everyone has fond memories of enjoying them with family and friends and it is also one of the healthiest takeaway options. Consumers are becoming more health conscious and are aware that fish is a healthy choice and should be consumed twice a week.”

What are the latest trends in the fish and chips market? 

“Creating more choice for consumers is becoming increasingly popular,” explains Craig.  “Some shops are introducing snacking and grazing foods for lunch times. It is suggested that people don’t want to sit in the office on a full stomach.”

“With the introduction of light bite options it not only satisfies existing customers changing preferences, but also opens up a whole new demographic for shop owners.” 

Mohammed has noted the global trend of premiumisation as one that fish and chip operators can champion to become a leader in their market.  He explains; “Offering high quality flaky fish in a light crispy batter can be enhanced when served with a premium chip.  Aviko’s premium Fries range the Supercrunch 15mm and the Supercrunch 9.5mm Skin-On, give even more variety for those looking to offer fish and chips with home-made appeal.”

“The Supercrunch range features an innovative coating that means consumers will enjoy a crispier, crunchy texture. It holds heat for up to 15 minutes, making it suitable for fish and chip shops who are under pressure to prepare food in a limited time and is also longer than the average fry, offering better plate fill. In addition, the Supercrunch range has a long shelf-life of up to 18 months which is a major bonus and helps minimise food wastage and maximise profits.”

Nic Townsend, Marketing Manager, Farm Frites agrees; “While there will always be a market for traditional Fish and Chips on the menu, the trend for premiumisation applies here as much as it does across casual dining.”

“More gastro-style menus with premium sides are popular; from versions of mushy peas and flavoured batters on fish to a choice of potato sides or an upgrade of chips.  Increasingly, customers are expecting more from the chips and rather than being merely a side order, they are an integral part of the meal.”

“We launched our ‘Extra’ range to help busy chefs turn over a large quantity of quality chips. The coating ensures that every portion is served with greater heat retention and with a consistent taste and crunch.”

What is your perception of free-from fish and chip options?

“We hold a very popular gluten free day once a month,” begins Lesley.  “It’s very satisfying for us when customers tell us they have not been able to have fish and chips for 5, 10 or 15 years as they are gluten intolerant and have made a 90 mile round trip to enjoy our fish and chips.”

“Many shops including our own, serve Gluten Free Fish & Chips on certain days on the week or month,” adds Craig.

“By catering for the needs of people who are coeliac or who are gluten intolerant, it enables people who usually cannot eat fish and chips to experience it and enjoy it with peace of mind. It also means that the whole family can enjoy the nation’s favourite meal together.”

“With the introduction of legislation for food establishments to show the allergen content within its dishes, it is easy to guide consumers with allergens through the menu and with confidence.” 

Mohammed explains; “Free-from fish and chips need to meet a high standard that matches their counterparts. With the allergen legislation in effect, it has never been more important for fish and chip shops to offer free-from options that deliver on taste.” 

“Though potatoes themselves don’t contain gluten, how and where they are prepared means that caterers could be unintentionally serving gluten to customers, which can mean serious side effects for those with an intolerance.”

“Fish and chip shops can be safe in the knowledge that Aviko’s most popular products, including its Premium Fries range, are produced in a dedicated gluten-free factory, offering an easy way to meet the demand for coeliac friendly dishes, something not all potato product suppliers can guarantee.”

“With the increasing number of consumers now suffering from various food allergies and intolerances, it is important to take this into consideration when planning a menu and find options suitable,” says Adrian. 

“Finding a product that is free from the key triggers of wheat, gluten and milk, is extremely beneficial for operators because it can be used universally across the menu for all customers, with or without allergies.”

“As such we recommend offering our Young’s MSC Omega 3 fish fingers, free from wheat, gluten and milk.  With fish fingers remaining popular with all ages, as Young’s latest research into Britain’s favourite foods clearly shows, with over a quarter of the population naming fish fingers as one of their favourite foods they are sure to be a guaranteed hit.”

“For operators that want to appeal to the needs of all customers, our King Frost naked mushy pea fritters are an excellent vegetarian choice, while also being free from wheat, gluten and milk.”

For Nic the incorporation of free-from options is vital for all menus.  He explains; “Consumers’ dietary requirements have to be catered for, and while it isn’t new for operators to offer allergen-free foods, it is an area which still needs developing.” 

“Allergy UK tells us that 93% of consumers are more likely to choose an outlet which is up to date on allergy awareness.  All of our fries are gluten free and we help operators understand how they can offer these side dishes with confidence.”

“Menu labelling is important to demonstrate this awareness and we know that this starts with a confidence among operators. As suppliers to the trade, we have a strong remit to help them serve side orders with trust.”

What options are available for customisation of dishes? 

“Many of our products are available in different sizes to meet the needs of all appetites and allowing operators to customise each dish to the perfect portion,” says Adrian.  “For example, fish cakes are always a popular choice and using a frozen quality brand such as King Frost, a caterer has many advantages including; extended shelf life, portion control, consistency, reduced waste, speed of preparation and the ability to bulk buy.”

“The King Frost Fishcakes are available in various different sizes to suit all ages and appetites, including the standard-sized King Frost Lincolnshire Fishcakes, or for those that like a little more, the Jumbo Lincolnshire Fishcakes. Indulge those customers with larger appetites with the King Frost Mega Fishcakes; the ultimate fishcake feast! Customers will be delighted to see so much choice on a menu, ensuring there is always the perfect portion for everyone. Offering various sizes keeps all customers satisfied while also significantly reducing the amount of waste for operators.” 

He concludes; “Each individual fishcake is filled with delicious white fish and potato, coated in a delicious golden breadcrumb. Operators can simply deep fry them straight from the freezer which will help save valuable time in the fast paced environment of fish and chip shops. Whichever size customers choose, fish friers can be confident that all of the sizes in the King Frost range can be cooked from frozen at 180°C, in a matter of minutes (five minutes for standard, six minutes for Jumbo and seven minutes for mega size), ensuring that cooking to order is always easy.”

“When a consumer orders Fish and Chips they expect the make-up of the meal to suit a certain formula,” adds Nic.  “They want traditional Fish & Chips and that in itself is simple enough to serve, as long as the main elements of fish and chips are good quality.”

However, that doesn’t mean that creativity can’t come to the fore warns Nic; “There are options to customise the side dishes and to offer a choice on what style of chips are served.  Skinny or shoe-string fries are a popular substitute for children’s meals and work really well with fish goujons instead of one large fillet.”

“Chunky chips can command a premium and consumers will happily pay extra if they feel that the end result is worthy of a ‘posher’ chip.  Our Ultimate Chip was launched to be the ideal chunky chip for premium menus.  It is our perfectly imperfect chip; hand cut style and based on a 10-step process to go beyond triple cooked and create a chip masterpiece.”

Nic concludes; “The fish element of the meal could also be customized and upgraded with options for grown-up goujons or even mackerel burgers with chips for a twist on a classic.  Couple these with additional sauce options, hand-made mayonnaise, salsa-style ketchup or Tartare sauce, and the consumer receives a more premium experience for a few extra pounds.”

Are there any sustainability concerns for sourcing certain species of fish/seafood? 

There’s been a considerable growth in interest in serving Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable seafood in the restaurant, pub and casual dining industry in recent years, despite the economic climate. Consumer dining trends and confusion over seafood sustainability are driving restaurant and takeaway owners, as well as their customers, to look to the MSC and its blue label, for traceability and reliable reassurance that the fish has come from a certified sustainable source.

It’s becoming increasingly important for restaurants, bistros and fish and chip shops to demonstrate their sustainable fish sourcing to their customers and provide an assurance that the fish being served is from an MSC certified sustainable supply chain, helping to maintain the ocean’s fish stocks. MSC certified restaurants and takeaways have been very pleased with their resulting success.

Certified sustainable species appearing on their MSC certified takeaway and restaurant menus with the blue ecolabel may include; Pollack, haddock, whiting and cod and prawns in dishes such as fish and chips and prawn cocktails. Shellfish lovers across the UK can now enjoy this classic dish at Premier Inn restaurants, marked with an MSC ecolabel, assured of its sustainable provenance.

George Clark, UK Senior Commercial Manager for MSC explains; “MSC certification for restaurants and takeaways is now so much easier. It helps businesses to demonstrate to their customers that their fish has been independently certified as sustainable, and is fully traceable from ocean to plate.”

“MSC certification can boost sales and improve customer loyalty, but it also helps to ensure that there will be fish in our oceans for generations to come – which is great news for the future of the nation’s favourite takeaway, and such an iconic dish.”

The most recent and long-awaited news that North Sea cod has now gained MSC certification means that fish and chip operators can now put the popular and sustainable UK species back on their menu and extend their choice of locally caught MSC certified fish. The news means that – subject to strict traceability requirements – North Sea cod can now be sold in restaurants and takeaways bearing the MSC ‘blue tick’ label, indicating that it is sustainable and fully traceable.

George says; “Since news broke of North Sea cod’s MSC certification, there’s been a huge amount of enthusiasm from fish lovers wanting to buy it. It’s brilliant to see this newly sustainable British fish make its London debut on a fish and chip shop menu.”

“All our certified chippies, retailers and suppliers are directly involved in the revival and protection of species like North Sea cod. And every time a customer chooses fish with our ‘blue tick’ label, they can feel proud to be doing their bit too.” 

Lesley agrees, explaining; “Fish and chip shops are in an incredibly good position with a huge number of fish species being MSC certified with the recent addition of North Sea cod.”

“There are tools available to check the sustainability of fish and also the seasonality so it really is easy to make informed choices and pass this information on to your customers.”

Many shops are purchasing and serving sustainable seafood to their customers according to Craig and some shops are becoming certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. 

He explains; “Sustainability is vital for the future of our oceans and the fish & chip industry. Many fisheries in the North East Atlantic around Norway and the Barents Sea are MSC certified sustainable.”

“Now with the fantastic news that Cod and Haddock in the North Sea is also MSC certified Sustainable our industry is moving in the right direction. There are many industry partners working hard to ensure Sustainable Fish & chips are on our plates for many years to come.”

For Young’s Foodservice, one of their main priorities is to protect the environment. With this in mind, they have developed a specific programme to protect the key elements of their business; the fish and the sea.

“Through our Fish for Life Corporate Social Responsibility Programme, we aim to improve the impact of everything we do, from sea to plate,” elaborates Adrian.

“This includes doing all we can for our customers and for the planet. Sustainable practices are the only way to protect the future of fish and this is why we work hard to ensure we understand every fish farm and fishery before using them in our supply chain. We also work proactively with fishermen and industry as a whole, to help improve long terms sustainability.”

“As part of our commitment to achieve this, Young’s recently supported research into sustainable fishing technology through a study called ‘Project Trawlight’. This trial looked at ways of reducing the number of unwanted smaller fish caught by illuminating escape routes in the net.”

Adrian concludes; “Operators should carefully consider the types of fish they offer and most importantly, with sustainability being such a hot topic, be aware of the provenance of where the fish is sourced.  We would highly advise caterers to check the sourcing policy as a first point of action when choosing a supplier to ensure they have a responsible policy in place.”

“When choosing products from the Young’s range, operators can be assured that they have all been sourced sustainably, giving flexibility and greater choice when constructing menus.”

What packaging options are available for takeaway fish and chip dishes?

Craig explains; “There are a wide variety of options for serving fish and chips, although many still want newspaper, unfortunately this cannot happen due to the ink in the print. Many shops do use news wrap, but it is plain.”

“With so many boxes and bags available it becomes a tough choice, but it has to be said there isn’t yet a perfect solution to serve fish & chips. Steam is our enemy; we aim for crispy batter and crispy chips with a light and fluffy centre. But when cooking fresh to order as many shops are tending to do, the product is piping hot and the steam doesn’t help to maintain crispiness.”

“We use custom made corrugated boxes which helps promote our brand and provides useful information to customers it suits us, and other shops will use what suits them and their product.”

“We use a bio-degradable box made from sugar cane,” adds Lesley.  “Packaging has come a long way from the days we were wrapping in newspaper to becoming environmentally friendly, in helping with maintaining the quality of the fish and chips, holding the temperature and helping with portion control.”

What equipment is revolutionising the fish and chip industry?

Voted the UK’s best independent fish & chip shop at the 2016 National Fish and Chip Awards, family-owned Simpson’s fish and chips serves up an incredible 4,000 portions of the nation’s favourite fishy fare every week from its restaurant and takeaway on the outskirts of the town.  The last few years have seen business go from strength to strength having teamed up with food waste recycler Andigestion to dispose of the inevitable food waste in an environmentally-friendly way.

“Fortunately our customers’ love of fish & chips means that we never have too many leftovers, but we’re very conscious about our environmental impact and it has been great to be able to send our food waste to Andigestion where it gets turned into ‘green’ energy;” commented James Ritchie, Director at Simpsons.

Andigestion is a pioneer of food-based anaerobic digestion in the UK and operates recycling plants in Gloucestershire and Devon.  Working with a range of food businesses, its cost effective and efficient food waste recycling processes produce clean, green and eco-friendly energy (biogas from Gloucestershire and electricity in Devon) which is fed into the national grid for use in local homes, as well as a nitrogen-rich, organic fertiliser which is used by local farmers.

Jason Ward, Commercial Manager at Andigestion explains; “We’ve processed over 16 tonnes of potato peelings and food waste from the Cheltenham site in the past 12 months, and over 200kg from Stroud during its first three weeks of operation.  This equates to 11MW.hrs of ‘green’ energy produced enough to provide the annual use of gas for 34 homes - and over 17 tonnes of fertiliser, as well as a significant saving in CO2.  This is a really positive initiative by Simpsons as the waste has been put to good use - creating renewable energy from food waste rather than sending it to landfill.”

“With the introduction of high efficiency frying ranges, with built in filtration systems, or filtration systems that are highly efficient in what they do,” adds Craig.  “We are not only seeing an increase in product quality but in consistency. The modern frying range means we are not always battling for temperature, it is more consistent.”

“This enables us to lock in the flavour and produce a consistent product. Reducing the big temperature curves of cooking also enable us to produce a product with less fat absorbsion and therefore produce a healthier product.”

Craig concludes; “There are also products to monitor the quality of the cooking oil to enable us to maintain consistency in oil quality throughout service.  In our shop we filter our oils twice a day and monitor them daily for quality, we are not afraid to throw any degrading oil out for recycling.”

What does the future hold for the fish and chip market? 

“There’s a lot of young talented people coming into our industry,” begins Lesley.  “There are some fantastic fish and chip shops and restaurants out there who, like us are keen to offer their own twist on traditional fish and chips. Major advancements in equipment and technology have brought fish and chips into the 21st century.”

“Observing celebrity chefs joining us in the industry by opening fish and chip restaurants both in this country and abroad is a true indication of the popularity of our national dish.  All of this along with a huge selection of training courses point to a very bright future.”

Craig is enthusiastic about the future of fish and chips; “We feel good about the future of fish & chips, it is looking bright.  There are bodies within the Industry working together for the benefit of Fish and chips and the industry they represent.”

“The National Federation of Fish Friers represents the industry well and works very hard behind the scenes. There is also the National Fish & chip Awards which help keep the industry focused and current. Finally, the hard-working people within the shops, both the owners and the staff.  They work long before they open and long after they are closed to prepare great food for Fish & chip lovers!”

Biffa