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‘Under-loved’ fish set for name change to reel in UK customers

Industry bosses hope rebranding megrim sole and spider crab will boost domestic sales

Two of Cornwall’s fish and crab species are to be renamed as part of a campaign designed to get more British diners hooked on the home-caught duo.   

Megrim sole and spider crab have long been popular in Europe, with around 95% of the former and 85% of the latter exported to the Continent after being pulled from the seas surrounding England’s most southerly county. However, extra paperwork and border checks following Brexit is hitting the export market.

And megrim sole and spider crab are “under-loved” by domestic consumers, says the Seafood Cornwall initiative - leaving the industry facing a potential crisis.

In a bid to tip the scales back in their favour, the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation (CFPO) has teamed up with other key industry players to launch a three-month study “to identify which innovative methods and processes can be implemented” to make the two species more appealing to UK buyers.

As part of the rebranding campaign, megrim sole is being renamed “Cornish sole”, while spider crab will be sold as “Cornish king crab”. 

‘Grim’ connotation

Market research by the CFPO found that rebranding the fish and crab “would persuade more British consumers to buy them instead of what it called the ‘usual suspects’ of cod, haddock and tuna”, The Times reports.

The trade organisation’s chief executive, Paul Trebilcock, said: “There’s this negative thing with megrim - it’s a ‘grim’ connotation.”

But “our investigation revealed that simply by calling it Cornish sole, straight away more people were willing to to try it and were more interested in finding out where it came from”, he added.

All the same, the project is “more than a rebrand”, the CFPO insists. “We are working with our members and the supply chain to research, design and test new products for UK consumers,” the group said in a series of tweets.  

“Why? Because there are delicious, sustainable and abundant fish species caught in our waters that UK consumers hardly ever get to eat. 

“There are lots of reasons behind this: economic, social… some fish aren’t as good-looking as others. But we think these barriers can be overcome.”

The CFPO has also joined forces with chef James Strawbridge to create “recipes that could revitalise both the fish and the crab”, Sky News reports. 

A helping of slimehead?

A series of fish rebranding campaigns have succeeded in boosting sales in countries across the world in recent years. For example, the Patagonian toothfish became the far more popular Chilean seabass in the US and Canada, while the unappetising-sounding “slimehead” was renamed the orange roughy.

In the UK, Cornish sardines is a “glammed-up name to banish the image of cold tinned pilchards for Sunday tea”, according to The Independent. Torbay sole was formerly known as witch, and the Scottish crustaceans now called langoustine were previously nephrop.

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