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Top food scientist’s praise for industry

CHIEF scientific officer for the Food and Drink Federation, Helen Munday, has underlined the phenomenal role of the seafood industry cluster in Grimsby in feeding the nation.

Top food scientist’s praise for industry

 keynote speaker at a special careers event this past month, she underlined the sector's ability to deliver what was needed, praising the pace at which it adopts to trends and innovates to meet them.

Mrs Munday, who worked for Mars and Coca-Cola prior to taking up her current wide-reaching role, told Business Telegraph: "The industry in Grimsby is at the forefront."

Giving examples, and referencing some of the stars of the seafood industry, she said: "One of the things that is so important is that people find the food convenient and that it fits into their lifestyle. People aren't as confident in preparing foods as we think they are, so how we can take away some of the uncertainty and do the preparation for people is key. It adds value for the manufacturer but also helps people consume something they might not consume otherwise.

"The people behind The Saucy Fish Co products (Icelandic Seachill) they are incredibly insightful in terms of what a consumer wants. People are intimidated to do that sort of meal."

She also praised the efforts on the health agenda, with another town giant, Young's Seafood, investing heavily to make its Chop Shop range better for the body, with work on the batter.

"Even when it comes to something we're quite comfortable with, something like straight forward fish and chips, companies are there making it as healthy as can be, that is something I know manufacturers are now working on," she said. "They want people to be able to fit it in to their healthy diet and lifestyle."

And this, according to Mrs Munday, is where the town's big export is a winner.

"Fish is one of those positive foods; we care constantly reminded that we should have two portions a week, and one should be oily.

"We are not meeting these recommendations in the same way we are not consuming our five a day.

"Overall the UK is looking at sugar, salt, saturated fats, and (in that context) fish always has a lot going for it, while at the same time we are seeing positives with stocks and sustainability.

"The seafood companies have quite a lot to work with, and they need to bring as much as possible to the consumers, it is a positive."

During her address, Mrs Munday highlighted two other key elements of the industry integral to Grimsby's economic footprint, engineering and packaging. She compared the building of the huge food factories and process lines – niches proudly exploited by town firms – as being as sophisticated as oil refineries, while underlining the packaging's role in portion control and shelf life.

Perhaps because of her upbringing close to the home of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies in Leicestershire, she also has another of Grimsby's stars close to her heart, the EU Protected Geographical Indication bestowed on Grimsby's traditionally smoked fish.

She is a leading voice in calls to ensure that once the UK is untangled from Brussels, these producers who make livings and envelope pride from local products keep the protection to survive and thrive.

"We know Brexit is coming and it is something keeping us busy," she said. "It is very important to our local producers that we keep programmes like that going.

"We are already discussing this with Defra, the department of Government that takes care of this. We need to be planning to have a system that picks it up. It is currently an EU scheme, recognised between different countries as well. At the moment the EU provides the assessment and management, and it is going to need some people who can do that assessment in the UK, maintain the register and keep it ticking over.

"We also need to make sure the reciprocal agreement with other countries remains. It is something we need to do to protect producers."

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