THE world’s largest full-cycle commercial Kingfish producer is preparing to launch a global campaign to introduce the fish typically used in sashimi to a broader market.
Clean Seas Seafood in South Australia is the market leader for premium sashimi and table fish in Europe, producing more than 2000 metric tonnes a year of Yellowtail Kingfish, or Hiramasa, from fingerling to 4.5kg in the Spencer Gulf.
The publicly listed company is looking to regain its share of the global Kingfish market, which is dominated by small Japanese producers.
Clean Seas released its Q3 FY17 Cash Flow report to the market on Friday (April 28), which showed a strong improvement in cash flows to further demonstrate the company’s turnaround. The market update said the company was on track to reach sales of between 2250 and 2400 tonnes by the end of June 2017 and reconfirmed that it expected to return to full year profitability in 2018.
Managing Director and CEO David Head said the North American and European markets had huge potential for Clean Seas.
He said the company would launch a new campaign starting in North America in the coming northern hemisphere summer with a narrative that “truly explains the product’s premium culinary excellence and its South Australian provenance”.
“We are going to go door-to-door to the top restaurants in North America with teams working to introduce our product,” Head said.
“This is not something you can present to a wholesaler and expect them to do the work for you – we’ve got to go to the top end chefs.
Yellowtail Kingfish, right, with its creamy white to pale pink flesh is known for its sashimi qualities but is also gaining traction as a versatile cooked product.
Clean Seas is working to further these markets and stabilise supply by introducing smaller products rather than solely relying on the 4.5kg sashimi grade Kingfish, which take between 18 and 24 months to grow.
“In six months we can grow a 600gram product, it’s not sashimi grade but it’s a high quality, plate-size Kingfish,” Head said.
“The 1-1.5kg fish is a slightly larger product that we will market as well.”
Clean Seas Seafood grows its Kingfish in Boston, Arno and Fitzgerald Bays in the Spencer Gulf, which also support global Western King Prawn and Southern Bluefin Tuna industries. The gulf is fed by the Southern Ocean and has a direct line of sight to Antarctica some 3500km to the south.
Clean Seas had a live biomass inventory of about 4000MT of Kingfish a year in the late 2000s before the fish started mysteriously dying. By 2012 the mortality rate had increased from around 15 per cent to more than 80 per cent, reducing its live fish inventory to under 500 tonnes. In mid-2012 the company discovered a taurine deficiency in the feed was responsible for the soaring mortality rate, which is the subject of an ongoing court case.
With its Kingfish healthier than ever, sales for the 2016/17 financial year are forecast to reach up to 2400MT.
The company expects to return to a full year profit next year as it works to lure back former customers and find new markets. It has maintained a strong presence in Europe, particularly Switzerland, Italy and England.
It has also had success in increasing the export farm gate price by more than $2 per kg in the first half of FY 2017 and also increased the Australian Domestic Farm Gate price by about $0.80 per kg, the first price increase in Australia since April 2013.
“I believe the true provenance of our product is critically important to chefs – it’s a coldwater fish, it lives and is grown in the ocean and that’s an important story,” Head said.
“This is a superb product with unique properties and when people try it they will like it.”
Clean Seas is also set to bring its processing in-house in coming months when it opens a plant in the South Australian capital Adelaide.
Head said the new processing facility would allow the company to control the supply chain of its air-freighted fresh products from start to finish, develop value-added products, allow it to respond to peaks in demand and enable growth.
Clean Seas will appoint Terry O’Brien as its Non-Executive Chairman at its Board meeting next week. Current Chairman Paul Steere will remain on the Board as an Independent Non-Executive Director.