A Platform for Growth

Annual Report 2018

Rod Hepponstall

“In a lot of ways, I came to two companies – one operating in the United States and one in Canada – that happened to share a name. Through Organizational Realignment, we are now operating as one unified company.”

One High Liner Foods:

In Conversation with the CEO

President and CEO Rod Hepponstall joined High Liner Foods on May 1. “I am extremely pleased to be joining High Liner Foods,” he said at the time. “I look forward to working with my new team to improve the business, to create innovative products that help drive seafood consumption and to deliver on a strategy that will create long-term value for our shareholders.”


What did you see in High Liner Foods back in May, and what do you see now?

Before I came to High Liner Foods, I saw an organization with tremendous brand recognition and a history that has stood the test of time. At the same time, I saw shifting consumer trends more broadly. Seafood is an “under-consumed” protein compared to beef, poultry and pork. So I saw an exciting opportunity to tap into consumer demands for healthier sources of protein.

What I quickly realized when I arrived was the quality of our people here. All across the gobe – whether in Canada, the United States, Asia or Iceland – we have a company full of ambitious, hard-working people who really care about what we do and why we do it. It’s one thing to instill passion in people. It’s a whole other ballgame when the passion and potential for success are already there.


How do you tap into that passion and transform it into results?

First, you have to make sure everyone is on the same page – that we’re not duplicating efforts, working inefficiently or operating in silos. You have to bring everyone together and say, “Look, no matter your role or your location, we’re one organization.” When people aren’t stranded in their specific roles – but feel part of something bigger – you begin to unlock all sorts of potential.

I arrived with my sleeves already rolled up! Right away, I made a point of visiting each and every one of our facilities, and with my team we took an in-depth look at our collective strengths and capabilities. Those run the gamut. At one end, you might have a highly engaged employee, at one of our plants, with an original idea. At the other end, you have an organizational DNA based on 120 years of deep seafood expertise, along with the legacy of resilience, innovation and reinvention that comes with that.


And that’s what you mean when you talk about “One High Liner Foods”?

Exactly. “One High Liner Foods” gives expression to the first of five Critical Initiatives we’ve identified as essential for our next two years to unlock our potential value and return to organic growth. Through Organizational Realignment, our first critical initiative, we are creating an integrated, cohesive and collaborative culture to ensure we’re operating efficiently, sharing information and establishing company-wide best practice across the globe.

In a lot of ways, I came to two companies – one operating in the United States and one in Canada – that happened to share a name. Through Organizational Realignment, we are now operating as one unified company. Today, internal connections are global in nature, not just local. Employees are working with their colleagues around the world more cohesively than ever before. They’re making decisions together, sharing lessons learned and testing out new ideas for how we operate, innovate and reach consumers.


Where does One High Liner Foods go from here?

While we had to make some difficult decisions, we’ve made important progress in realigning the organization. Fully realizing the strengths of High Liner Foods will never be “done” in my book, though. Empowering people to do the best they can do – that never stops. Encouraging colleagues to question the status quo – that never stops either. As soon as you stop paying attention to learning moments, you’re missing opportunities to improve.

That said, we’re driving process improvements, realizing efficiencies and working as one company. We’re a leaner, smarter, flatter business that can be faster to market, more competitive and overall better equipped to tap into the market opportunity we see ahead. I truly believe that we can take advantage of the “halo effect” seafood has in the minds of more and more consumers, who increasingly associate it with healthy eating.


What does 2019 have in store for High Liner Foods?

Heading into the year, we have a talented, calibrated leadership team in place, and enthusiasm throughout the organization. As an integrated company, we will continue realizing the benefits of Organizational Realignment and we will advance our other critical initiatives – Business Simplification, Supply Chain Excellence, and Rubicon Alignment and Shrimp Growth. Taken together, this provides the foundation for our final – and ongoing – initiative, Profitable Organic Growth.

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By inspiring North Americans to enjoy seafood like never before – making it easier for them to buy and prepare one of the healthiest, most sustainable sources of protein available – we are building a simple yet powerful platform for growth.

Sales (in millions of USD)
Product Sales Volume (in millions of pounds)
Sales vs. Adjusted EBITDA(1) (in millions of USD)
Sales Adjusted EBITDA
  • (1) See the Non-IFRS Financial Measures section of the Annual Report for further explanation of Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted Diluted Earnings per Share

Business Review

Who We Are

High Liner Foods is a leading North American processor and marketer of value-added frozen seafood. Our retail branded products are sold throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico under the High Liner, Fisher Boy, Sea Cuisine and C. Wirthy & Co. labels, and are available in most grocery and club stores. We also sell branded products under the High Liner, Icelandic Seafood and FPI labels to restaurants and institutions, and are a major supplier of private-label, value-added frozen seafood products to North American food retailers and foodservice distributors.

To help us deliver what our customers want, when they want it, we source seafood from around the world. No matter where we source, our requirements are the same: suppliers must strive to catch or farm seafood responsibly, protect against overfishing and limit impacts on the natural environment. They’re also expected to treat their employees well and uphold high worker safety and social standards.

High Liner Foods is a publicly traded Canadian company, trading under the symbol HLF on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Business Simplification

Among seafood’s many benefits for consumers is its variety, which can appeal to a wide range of tastes and eating occasions. And for years, High Liner Foods has procured dozens of species from countries all over the world.

The right mix of product diversity going forward, though, depends on the evolving consumer trends of tomorrow. Today, we are identifying those species and SKUs that have the most potential among foodservice and retail customers, and shifting our focus away from those that appeal to an increasingly small market segment. “More than anything, this is all about focus,” explains Paul Jewer, EVP and CEO. “We’re focused on the things that can drive value for High Liner Foods.”

Supply Chain Excellence

We are actively implementing an integrated supply chain – creating a cross-border operating system, increasing manufacturing efficiencies and optimizing overall supply chain structure. By “flexing the muscle” of a singular North American network, we have increased our operational standards and fill rates. We have also increased service levels and lowered inventories – all while delivering industry-leading quality to customers and consumers.

“We’ve identified a number of opportunities to help us reduce costs by several million dollars in 2019,” explains Paul Snow, a forty-year seafood industry veteran who joined High Liner Foods in 1978. “And efficient operations will position us to take full advantage of future market opportunities.”

Rubicon Alignment and Shrimp Growth

In May 2017, High Liner Foods acquired Rubicon Resources, a leading U.S. shrimp importer. Representing our broader platform to grow our shrimp and aquaculture business, Rubicon has an entrepreneurial spirit that has guided it for the past twenty years.

We continue to nurture Rubicon’s entrepreneurial streak, while leveraging the scale and resources of High Liner Foods where appropriate. This includes organization-wide insight, analytics and marketing efforts to help Rubicon maximize its consumer and customer relevance. “We are focused on bringing Rubicon products to market in a more meaningful, succinct way than ever before,” says CEO Rod Hepponstall. That means extracting value and identifying synergies not yet fully realized by our 2017 acquisition.

Profitable Organic Growth

Through insight, research and partnerships, we are recognizing opportunities for organic growth, and ensuring High Liner Foods is there quickly. We are launching innovative products like Haddock Bites, for example – products that are on trend, shareable and appropriate for multiple eating occasions, including snacking.

“We have a real opportunity to encourage seafood consumption,” explains Craig Murray, SVP Marketing and Innovation. “We’re poised to bring a number of innovations to market in 2019.” Chris Mulder, SVP North American Sales, agrees. “We are in a position to capitalize on our historical strengths,” he says, “while adopting a continuous improvement mindset that will help us focus on the needs of our customers and consumer trends.”

Key Retail Brands

Key Foodservice Brands