New England Seafood International has been bought out by an Alaskan regional corporation in a major deal uniting two global industry players.
Sealaska has swooped for the company, which has a large manufacturing operation in Grimsby.
It now becomes part of the native operation established in the US State under settlement legislation in the Seventies, joining a stable of food companies including Seattle-based Orca Bay Foods.
Those behind the undisclosed deal said it creates an “unprecedented alliance of market leaders from different corners of the world”.
Sealaska shares are held by more than 23,000 descendants of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes, located in the far south along the Canadian border.
The management team at £161 million turnover NESI, led by Dan Aherne, will remain, with founder Fred Stroyan retaining a stake.
Together, they plan to build on “shared, long-standing commitments to fostering a thriving planet,” with combined operations to focus on efficiently converting seafood from healthy fisheries around the globe “to deliver innovative, tasty, nutritious products that help inspire consumers to eat more delicious, healthy fish.”
Terry Downes, chief operating officer at Sealaska, said the alliance provides a unique platform from which to influence change and impact the factors that matter most to the long-term health of the industry and Earth’s oceans.
“One of the biggest challenges facing humanity is how to feed, water, educate and house a growing population on a finite planet,” he said. “Enormous social, environmental and economic value is possible when strong, like-minded organisations join forces across the world to make a bigger difference. Solving our most pressing problems requires working together with a global mindset.”
The NESI name, including the Leap and Fish Said Fred brand, will remain with the Surrey-headquartered operation that acquired Albert Darnell on Grimsby’s Europarc in 2016.
Mr Aherne said the company values and deep connection to Alaska strongly align with Sealaska.
“Whilst Southeast Alaska and London could not be farther apart in geography and way of life, Sealaska and NESI are natural partners connected at the source, via product categories and by values and approach,” he said. “Both businesses share a clear vision around inspiring consumers to enjoy more seafood. Both take a long-term, global view to enhancing lives and promoting a thriving planet.”
He told how the enlarged seafood group and enhanced management capacity provides opportunity for further investments to build on successes, with increased access to resources, broader product and category capabilities, and deeper market access.
“This is an exciting development for NESI and Grimsby as we continue to invest in our business and operations in the town,” Mr Aherne added.
Recent major wins with Asda and The Co-op have seen the site propelled, with a workforce of 715 split between there and Chessington.
Mr Stroyan, who started importing live lobsters from Canada to Heathrow in the early Nineties, said: “NESI grew from my passion for bringing the world’s best seafood to the UK.
“This alliance solidifies my vision for a globally connected seafood enterprise that is committed to trusting relationships, quality products and ocean health. I’m proud of this legacy and thrilled about what we can accomplish together.”
The deal has been welcomed in Grimsby, where the seafood cluster proved to be a huge attraction for NESI’s expansion four years ago, having already used the town’s concentration of cold storage.
Simon Dwyer, secretariat to the Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, said: “This is very good news for the business and its people in Grimsby.
“NESI is one of many great seafood and protein businesses investing in Grimsby. It has to be a testimony in the strength of our seafood cluster of over 5,000 jobs, that a $1 billion business based in Alaska makes this type of investment.
“The new ownership and investor structure along with retaining the current senior management team, can only be reassuring for the future.
“The Grimsby cluster has investment from Iceland, Denmark, Japan and the Faroe Islands so, welcome to Alaska, USA!”