Thai Union is the world leader in tuna and seafood. The group has been increasing its acquisitions for the past ten years and now has seventeen factories in more than ten countries worldwide: Thailand, Vietnam, Ghana, Seychelles, Canada, United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, Poland and Russia. Between them, its factories produce one in five tins of tuna consumed globally. This giant has a global workforce of 47,000 people. In France, Thai Union has taken over two fishing flagships anchored in Bretagne. In 2010, it bought out Petit Navire (Douarnenez), the leader in tinned fish on the French market. In 2014, it made another major acquisition – Meralliance (Quimper), national leader in private label smoked fish and salmon.
Investments in Quimper
Thai Union is investing several million euros in Quimper to develop the Meralliance site (650 employees, €140M turnover 2018). In terms of production, the filleting process is being modernised, three new slicing lines are being installed and a 1200 m2 extension, representing an extra 10% surface area, will be operational in June 2020. The site will also save on electricity and should halve its gas, compressed air and hot water consumption.
In addition, the emphasis is on promoting co-products from the smoked fish preparation. This is a strategic focus, as 8,000 tonnes of raw materials enter the site every year, but Meralliance markets 5,000 tonnes of finished products. For example, the flesh removed from the filleting bones is now sold as a noble product, the heads are marketed in Asia and the fish trimmings are marketed in the Eastern countries where there are deep fried and consumed. The group has a co-product development centre in Poland.
Another fast-growing market is organic products. Organic salmon production volumes have increased from 300 tonnes five years ago to more than 1,000 tonnes in 2019. With all these investments, Meralliance is also going to move into the export markets. Its logistics site at Landivisiau (100 employees at the peak of the activity) already distributes the products from its Polish factory at European scale.
Innovation at Petit Navire
With 34.5% of market shares in value and 32.5% in volume, Petit Navire is the leader in the French tinned fish market and intends to consolidate its position through continuous innovation.
In 2019 alone, the brand will have launched fifteen innovative products in response to consumption trends as well as to the problem of protecting the resource. Thai Union has defined its “SeaChange” sustainable development strategy with the goal of offering an increasing number of products from integrated fishing. Thus, the group is committed to sourcing for its brands 100% tuna, either MSC-certified or from fishing grounds committed to an improvement project, with a first tier fixed at 75% by 2020.
Its new products include recipes for tuna fillets hand bottled with quality ingredients and and boneless and skinless mackerel fillets. Petit Navire is also launching its first sea trout raised in Normandie and prepared in Bretagne. New, spreadable recipes are also being launched given the success of its first products in this sector, where it achieved 59% market share by volume in 2018.
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