Grocery giant Foodstuffs has bought Leigh Fisheries and is promising that from August 1, the Lee Fish brand will be available in New World, PAK’nSAVE and Four Square stores, as well as Gilmours wholesalers.
While Leigh Fisheries chief executive officer Greg Bishop was not prepared to comment in any detail on the sale until it becomes official on July 31, he did say that it would mean the long-standing business would stay in Leigh. He added that the private company had been on the market for 10 years.
“We weren’t looking at necessarily the highest bidder, as we were more concerned with the continuation of the business and what was in the best interests of staff and fishermen,” he said.
Foodstuffs’ national seafood business manager David Jose said there would be no change at the landmark Leigh fish plant.
“It will be business as usual for the Leigh Fisheries processing factory under the leadership of Greg Bishop,” he said. “The Leigh Fisheries team will also continue to supply New Zealand restaurants and international customers.”
He added that Foodstuffs had been attracted to the Leigh business for a number of reasons, including its commitment to quality and sustainability, and its fishing quota. Leigh Fisheries has one of the largest independent holdings of quota in New Zealand, along with lobster and tuna allocations.
Prior to the deal with Leigh Fisheries, Foodstuffs had worked with other fishing companies to fulfil its own quota, but will now gain a significant new source of longline fish, including snapper, tarakihi, hāpuku and line-caught tuna. Mr Jose said quota ownership was a prerequisite for offering a consistent supply of quality seafood.
“This acquisition further extends our ability to meet growing customer demand for fresh, premium, sustainably caught species,” he said.
Foodstuffs chief executive Chris Quinn added that Leigh Fisheries was a fantastic New Zealand business with strong environmental values, a world-class brand and a promise to guarantee customers the best quality fish on the market.
“Their ‘Lee Fish’ brand is an exciting point of difference for our seafood story,” he said.
Leigh Fisheries was founded in 1958 and is still run from its historic home on Pakiri Road, where it currently sells into more than 300 NZ restaurants, as well as several international markets.
According to the Fish Information & Services website, Leigh Fisheries, unlike most other fishing companies, does not own any boats. Instead, it has independent boats fishing for it – 30 boats are registered in the port of Leigh and some 70 longline vessels are registered in other North Island ports. Some 60 employees fish on the 30 boats and around 30 people work at the factory, filleting, sorting and packing the fish.
Foodstuffs said Leigh Fisheries was unique in its ability to catch, process and distribute fresh seafood to customers in New Zealand and across the world in 48 hours or less. Lee Fish will start to become available in Foodstuffs stores from August 1.