Thai Union gets half its sales from canned tuna, but it is also looking to expand its lineup of more valuable products. – Một nửa doanh số của Thai Union đến từ cá ngừ đóng hộp, nhưng họ đang tìm cách mở rộng dòng sản phẩm có giá trị cao hơn.
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Seafood giant sees fish oil and other high-margin items as key to growth
BANGKOK — Thai Union Group, the world’s leading canned tuna exporter, is banking on its treasure trove of tuna heads to spur growth and lift profits.
The company makes about half of its sales from canned tuna, but is now looking to break into the market for refined fish oil and other higher-margin products made from byproducts like fish heads, skin, eyes and bones.
The push comes as Thai Union sales fell 1.2% last year to around $4.2 billion, due in part to the appreciation of the baht against the dollar. The company is aiming for a 5% increase this year, for which more valuable products will be key.
One step in this strategy is a $24 million state-of-the-art tuna oil refinery in Rostock, Germany, opened last November, from which Thai Union soon hopes to be shipping kosher- and halal-certified oil across the continent.
“Our pure tuna oil is just our first step in a suite of nutritional innovations from our marine ingredients business,” Thai Union CEO Thiraphong Chansiri said at the launch of the factory last November.
Currently, Thai Union sells much of its unrefined tuna oil to other tuna oil suppliers. Major players in the industry include Numega of Australia, DSM of the Netherlands — which produces its oil in Canada — and Nissui of Japan. The company is confident that once its German refinery is fully operational, it can give established suppliers a run for their money. The facility is currently awaiting kosher and halal certification.
“We are talking to companies who like the fact that we control the whole supply chain,” said Leon Coolen, Thai Union’s managing director of marine ingredients. “It means that we can control the quality and quantity. Our competitors source their oil from different countries.”
Thai Union’s new refinery in Germany will produce fish oil for baby formula makers and other clients. – Nhà máy lọc dầu mới của Thai Union tại Đức sẽ sản xuất dầu cá cho các hãng sữa bột trẻ em và các khách hàng khác.
Moving up the value chain is a familiar strategy for Thai Union. Over the past four decades, the company has transformed itself from a supplier of raw tuna into the owner of a stable of international fish product brands. It wholly owns Chicken of the Sea — once its main U.S. customer — and has snapped up Europe’s MW Brands, John West, Petit Navire, Parmentier and Mareblu in the past decade, as well as a 49% stake in the U.S.-based Red Lobster restaurant chain.
One reason Thai Union chose to build its refinery in Germany as opposed to Thailand, where its main tuna processing plants are based, is the country’s proximity to the main customers for tuna oil — the makers of baby formula.
Much of the world’s infant formula is made in Europe, dominated by multinationals including Nestle, Danone, Abbott, Mead Johnson and FrieslandCampina. European producers also account for about 80% of the baby formula market in China, where local producers have yet to recover from a 2008 scandal in which traces of melamine were found in China-made milk powder that was blamed for several infant deaths.
Tuna oil is high in Omega 3/DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a key ingredient in baby formula. DHA is found naturally in human breast milk and is a major component in the fatty acids in the human brain, especially when the brain is being formed in infancy.
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