Peter Lammertyn, Senior Key Account Manager at Pittman Seafoods, is relishing the start of the seafood exhibition season. Having just returned from Gulfood in Dubai, he is now looking forward to Seafood Expo Global (SEG) and the annual gathering of the Private Label Manufacturers’ Association (PLMA).
Spring marks the start of the Northern Hemisphere’s seafood trade show season, and Peter Lammertyn has recently returned from Gulfood – the largest food exhibition in the Middle East.
While Pittman Seafoods has traditionally focused on the northern European market, the seafood veteran explains that Dubai has the potential to offer an appealing alternative, especially for Pittman’s high-end products, such as snow crab, king crab and lobster – which are popular in the emirate’s hospitality sector.
“With about 80 percent of the population of the UAE being expats, with large disposable incomes, we are convinced there are a lot of opportunities for about a third of our products”, he reflects.
“We can serve as a distributor of these products, which means the local people don’t have to buy full container loads. We can solve that problem for them”, he adds.
Although the company was represented in Dubai purely as a visitor, not an exhibitor, Lammertyn says that the show generated a number of promising leads – both in Dubai and Saudi Arabia – and he sees the latter as having particularly significant medium-term potential, as it adopts increasingly Western eating habits.
Europe’s key seafood shows
In the meantime he is preparing for Seafood Expo Global, which takes place in Barcelona on 25-27 April. Pittman will have a stand – number 2D-303.
“It’s primarily a social event, for networking. It’s where we can meet both our customers and our suppliers,” he notes.
Meeting key people face-to-face is, Lammertyn believes, vital for helping the company cement the long-term relationships – with both suppliers and customers – that Pittman prides itself on.
“Pittman has always thought long-term and we are extremely loyal to all our stakeholders – suppliers, customers and our staff. For example, despite hyperinflation in 2022 we did not increase prices for our customers or cancel existing contracts, just as our suppliers respected their contracts with us”, he emphasises.
Following Barcelona, the next gig on Pittman’s agenda is PLMA, which comes to Amsterdam on 23-24 May. Lammertyn will be manning stand number 5D-80.
Given the event’s firm focus on private retail, it’s an occasion where Lammertyn is looking to thrive. As he explains, he’s been building up retail clients for three decades – first in seafood, followed by a number of years in frozen vegetables and French fries, before returning to seafood, and to Pittman (a company he previously worked for in the late 1990s), in 2022.
“I was hired by Yoke Vandepitte, CEO of the company. I used to work for her father, Dirk. He’s now retired, but it’s still a family business,” Lammertyn explains.
“One of the reasons Yoke took me on board was my experience in retail and we want to expand our business in retail. So events like SEG and PLMA are a chance to sell seafood to my old retail customers”, he observes.
Emerging trends in seafood
Gulfood, SEG and PLMA will also help to confirm whether the seafood trends that emerged in 2022 – a period characterised by hyperinflation in Pittman’s main markets – are likely to continue.
According to Lammertyn, these trends include ‘shrinkflation’ – producers’ and retailers’ decisions to reduce the size of their portions, rather than increase their prices, so that consumers are not priced out. Another is Pittman’s decision to start selling salmon portions with their skin on, thereby reducing processing costs without having to give in on quality. “It could be a good development, as it helps to improve the flavour,” he explains.
Perhaps the most seismic consumer trend is the shift away from branded products to private label ones. The latter tend to be less expensive and – as Lammertyn observes – Millennial and Gen Z consumers are less brand-focused, and are content with private label products, as long as they are good quality.
As a result, Lammertyn predicts that “the winners of inflation will be the discounters and the private labels, while the losers will be the brands’.
However, he adds that it’s vital for private label producers to ensure that the quality of their seafood products is maintained.
“Over 10 percent of our team is involved in quality and all our products are checked at least three times. When the going gets tough, Pittman gets going and this leads to very high service levels and long-lasting relationships, also with retailers. Trust is vital”, he concludes.