Popularity of sea bass on menus puts pressure on supplies

Grilled Fish Fillet with BBQ Vegetables

The huge popularity of sea bass on menus in bars, pubs and restaurants is putting pressure on supplies, buying specialist Lynx Purchasing has warned.

Operators should use other species to vary menus and specials boards this spring and summer which will not only help seafood sustainability but also mean they get better quality and value from suppliers.

The advice comes in the newly published spring edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast which also warns about high salmon prices.

Rachel Dobson, Lynx Purchasing managing director, said: “Over the past few years sea bass has moved from being a special to a regular dish on many menus, and we’re now seeing it offered all year around by many operators in the branded pub and casual dining sector.

“That inevitably has an impact. Most sea bass on menus is farmed, and our suppliers are now getting smaller fish from the main producers in Turkey and Greece. That can affect margins, because it may take two fillets instead of one to make a main course, and in the longer term those smaller fish never have the chance to grow to maturity.

“The appeal of sea bass to chefs is that it has a delicate flavour that works very well with sauces and accompaniments, but there are other fish that fit the bill. Both pollock and cod are forecast to be in good supply, while flat fish including brill, dabs, Dover sole, megrim and witch should also at their best quality this spring.

“Salmon is another menu staple, and Norwegian salmon prices hit a 30-year high at the start of this year after Russia relaxed its import ban.

“With both species. it’s harder for the branded operators to switch quickly, so independents can get an advantage this spring and summer by working with suppliers to keep menu flexible and get the best quality and prices.”

The Market Forecast also sounds a warning note on the impact of the UK’s unpredictable weather patterns on produce this spring. The long, mild spell that lasted through November and into December, followed by periods of torrential rain in many parts of Britain in both December and January, has left both growers and produce suppliers waiting to count the cost.

“Many crops planted in the autumn to be harvested this spring had an early growth spurt due to the mild weather, meaning they have either had to be harvested earlier, or will have struggled to sustain quality right the way through until picking,” Rachel explained.

“As we all know, the warm spell was followed by severe flooding in many areas, which inevitably had a further impact. Some seasonal veg staples such as carrots, parsnips, cauliflowers and cabbage have been harvested earlier, requiring a switch to more expensive imports as home-grown supplies run low later in the spring.

“We’re advising customers planning menus for restaurants, pubs and hotels that salads, soft fruits, root crops and green veg are all likely to see some challenges in terms of both price and availability.”

The Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast combines official inflation data with exclusive insight from across the range of suppliers Lynx works with. A free copy of the spring 2016 edition can be downloaded at Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast Spring 2016.

Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,200 businesses including hotels, pubs, restaurants, healthcare and education providers, offering access to the best prices in the market, with no fees or contracts.

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