Food business operators are being advised to switch to other fish species as the popularity of sea bass on restaurant and pub menus is putting pressure on supplies, warns a buying specialist.
Lynx Purchasing said that sea bass has moved from being a special dish to a regular dish on many menus and is now offered all year round by many pubs and dining businesses.
In its spring 2016 edition of the Lynx Purchasing Market Forecast, the company said that operators able to use other species such as pollack and cod to vary menus this spring and summer would benefit from better value from suppliers as well as contribute to seafood sustainability.
“Most sea bass on menus is farmed, and our suppliers are now getting smaller fish from the main producers in Turkey and Greece,” said Lynx Purchasing managing director Rachel Dobson. “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.
Dobson said that although the appeal of sea bass is that its delicate flavour works well with sauces and accompaniments, there are other fish that would be suitable for this.
“Both pollack and cod are forecast to be in good supply, while flat fish including brill, dabs, Dover sole, megrim and witch should also be at their best quality this spring,” she said.
Dobson added that Norwegian salmon prices hit a 30-year high at the start of this year after Russia relaxed its import ban. She said that it was harder for branded operators to switch quickly, while independents were in a better position to work with suppliers to keep menus flexible and get the best quality and price.
The Market Forecast, which combines official inflation data with insight from suppliers Lynx works with, also said that the long, mild winter, in combination with severe flooding in many parts of the UK, had had an impact on the quality of crops for many growers.
Many crops have had early growth, which has made it hard to maintain quality until picking, and some seasonal vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, cauliflowers and cabbage have had to be harvested earlier. This will require a switch to more expensive imports, as home-grown supplies run low later in the spring, according Dobson.
“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,” she said.
Lynx Purchasing works with more than 2,200 businesses including hotels, pubs, restaurants, healthcare and education providers.