Mackerel sales boom as Hugh effect kicks in

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Mackerel sales at the mults have soared 14% in the five months since Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched Mission Mackerel to get consumers eating more of the fish, The Grocer can exclusively reveal.

The figures come as retailers and suppliers brace themselves for the sequel to Hugh's Fish Fight - Hugh's Big Fish Fight Update - scheduled to run on 8 August.

Total value sales of chilled and canned mackerel increased 14% to £41.2m, and volume sales rose 10.5% to 5,797kg compared with last year [Kantar Worldpanel w/e 23 January 2011 to w/e 12 June 2011].

David Bell, commercial director of Young's Seafood, said although promotions had played their part in boosting mackerel sales, Fish Fight had been instrumental in raising consumer awareness.

"We're having more conversations with customers about options for different mackerel products," he said.

During Hugh's Fish Fight which aired in January Fearnley-Whittingstall encouraged consumers to eat more mackerel by lobbying fish & chip shop owners to put it on their menus.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said he was thrilled to see sales of mackerel were up but warned stocks needed to be managed responsibly. "If it's plundered for industrial purposes, it will soon be in the same troubles as other vulnerable species."

Current scientific advice suggested mackerel stocks were healthy, said John Harman, development director at industry body Seafish, adding that the fish was "a golden bullet in terms of health, beneficial in thousands of ways".

However, he warned there was "real concern" over the sustainability of stocks in the wake of Iceland and the Faroes declaring unilateral mackerel fishing quotas against the wishes of some EU member states.

Despite the overall sales success of mackerel, it proved the least popular fish with the public during Sainsbury's Switch the Fish promotion last month, accounting for only 11% of free fish given away.

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