Versatility is the hook that shoppers love

By Leon Symons, June 18, 2009

A few hours in the tiny office at Stoller’s offers a beginner’s guide to Anglo-Jewry’s affinity with salmon.

Last Thursday lunchtime, a never-ending stream of customers were entering the shop in Temple Fortune, north-west London.

“You can see that almost every customer buys salmon in one form or another,” said director Kim Williams. “It’s a fish used mostly by Jews because they can cook it ahead and eat it on Shabbat. It’s easy to prepare, very versatile and nutritious with omega-3 oil.”

He flicked through the orders taken that day from shoppers, restaurants and caterers: “About 80 per cent have ordered salmon in one form or another — there is fresh, smoked, sushi, fish cakes, paté, goujons, marinated, kebabs. It can be grilled, fried, poached and barbecued.” Salmon on Stoller’s slab was selling this week at £3.40 a pound, or £7.50 a kilo for a whole fish.

On an average week, Stoller’s sells about 100 stones of salmon, far more than any other fish. “Previously, wild salmon would be coming in at this time of year, which would bring down the price of farmed,” Mr Williams explained. “Now there’s such a shortage of wild salmon that it has no effect on farmed salmon prices.

“Another factor is how people want their salmon prepared. Years ago, people were happy with just the head off and scaled. Now they want it skinned, filleted and pin-boned. There’s much more work involved and that affects the price.

“I should have increased my price of fresh salmon a year ago but I went with the flow and hoped it would drop. There was a price rise a couple of months ago when it went up by £1 a kilo, but it has not stopped people buying it because it is still a cheap commodity compared to other fish. I think salmon has been too cheap for too long.”

In Manchester, Richard Hyman of Titanics said his business, which sells smoked salmon rather than wet, had faced a “creeping up” of prices over 18 months. But he had tried to minimise the impact on customers.

Mr Hyman buys his salmon primarily from a Scottish farm. His smoked salmon sells for £8 a pound or £18 a kilo. “There are few luxury items that people can enjoy while we are in a recession,” he said. “Our view is it is not necessary to take something away from people when we don’t have to.”

Fishy Facts
- 400,000 tonnes of salmon last year. That figure will be down by as much as 75 per cent for 2009 and 2010

- Global salmon demand has risen by 8-10 per cent a year for the last 15 years. This year, it is expected to drop between 5-10 per cent because of the recession.

- Global salmon production last year was 1.4-1.5 million kilos

Last updated: 3:13pm, October 9 2009