Fish and chips sector trends

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the fish and chips sector

Fish and chips, although still a great British tradition, has suffered a decline over the last couple of decades. The fast food and take-away market saw many changes, with strong competition coming from burger bars, Chinese and Indian take-aways, pizza and kebab outlets. All of these gave people a huge amount of choice. Fish and chip shops didn't move with the times - people began to think of them as dull and old fashioned. Fish and chips also came to be seen as an unhealthy meal because everything is fried in fat.

All this meant that, while other fast food sectors have prospered in recent years, fish and chips were left behind.

Recently, many fish and chip shops have woken up to the fact that they need to change. Some of the ways in which fish and chip shops have successfully adapted to changing times include:

  • refurbishing the shop, to make it look smart and attractive
  • serving a range of different meals, for example pizzas and burgers and vegetarian options
  • always serving top quality meals, cooked with the best available ingredients
  • trying new healthier cooking methods and reducing salt levels
  • offering smaller lunchtime portions and 'meal deals'
  • sourcing fish and potatoes as locally and sustainably as possible
  • offering a range of home-made items like pies, tartare sauce and coleslaw

As a result, industry research shows that since 2015 fish and chips have seen an upturn in sales, with the number of meal servings rising by over 5% in 2018 alone.

Trade bodies representing the fish frying industry have made great efforts to promote fish and chips as a national institution that is part of Britain's heritage. The two main trade associations are:

  • the National Federation of Fish Friers, New Federation House, 4 Greenwood Mount, Meanwood, Leeds LS6 4LQ
  • Seafish, 18 Logie Mill, Logie Green Road, Edinburgh EH7 4HS

The National Federation of Fish Friers publishes the Fish Friers Review, which is a useful source of information on forthcoming legislation, trade trends and new products. NFFF members benefit from being included in the NFFF smartphone app ifish4chips - this directs potential customers to members' businesses.

The last few years saw fish stocks coming under threat because of over-fishing, and strict quota limits on chip shop favourites cod and haddock pushed up prices. Many fish and chip shops started to offer alternatives like pollack and hake instead and by the mid 2010s cod stocks had recovered enough to be considered sustainable once again by the Marine Stewardship Council.

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