Seafood suppliers could boost sales by millions of pounds a year if they exploit the premium potential of langoustine - instead of just processing it into scampi, according to Young's.
Britain's biggest seafood supplier is planning to promote whole shell-on langoustine to consumers this summer in a bid to diversify away from the traditional breaded scampi product.
"In the context of the strength of the market for prawns, langoustine looks unexploited," said deputy chief executive Mike Parker. "Ninety-five per cent of whole langoustine is sold outside the UK, mainly in France and Spain, where it's normally served in the shell."
Following the success of Young's foodservice offer to restaurants such as Mitch Tonks' Fish Works, Parker said the company would launch a retail range of frozen shell-on langoustine at the end of the summer.
He conceded a whole shellfish could prove daunting for consumers, but said: "We wouldn't be doing this if consumer research didn't support it."
The move doesn't mean the days of breaded scampi are numbered, however. Retail sales of the product grew 16% to £46m last year, and Young's supplies much of it. Buoyed by this growth, the company plans to broaden the range of branded scampi it supplies.
It will launch new breaded and marinated scampi lines this summer. Promotion will focus on the fact the scampi is hand-peeled - something consumers have responded well to - albeit in the Far East.
Langoustine can't be farmed but it is one of the few edible marine species in British waters whose population is in growth, according to scientists. Brussels has raised the total allowable catch for 2007 to 44,000 tonnes.
Landings by British fishermen in 2005 were worth £67.2m and amounted to just 25,000 tonnes, leaving considerable room to increase domestic output.