Products you can trust

An extensive line of seafood species and products, coupled with the highest standards of quality, food safety, traceability and sustainable sourcing make High Liner Foods an easy and trusted choice for our customers.

Letter to shareholders

High Liner Foods continued its mission to radically simplify selecting, preparing and enjoying seafood at its best. As always, we are focused on growing our business, operating it as efficiently as possible, and ensuring we have the right talent to reach our objectives.

KEITH DECKER

PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER


Financial results

High Liner Foods’ financial results came in below our expectations in 2015 amid a challenging industry environment. Reported sales decreased by $50.3 million, or 4.8%, to $1,001.3 million compared to $1,051.6 million in 2014. Sales in domestic currency1 decreased by $9.7 million, or 0.9%, to $1,073.8 million due to softness in both the retail and foodservice channels. This was largely a consequence of higher raw material costs which increased the price of our frozen fish products relative to other “centre-of-theplate” protein choices. The approximate 15% decline in the Canadian dollar during the year also had a negative impact, diminishing the reported value of USD sales from our Canadian operations by an additional $40.9 million compared to 2014. As a result of the same factors, and partially offset by improvements in distribution and SG&A expenses, Adjusted EBITDA2 decreased by $5.1 million, or 6.1%, to $78.2 million. Adjusted Net Income2 decreased by $3.2 million, or 8.2%, to $35.6 million and Adjusted Diluted Earnings Per Share2 were $1.14 compared to $1.24 in 2014.

On a positive note, increased cash flow from operating activities in 2015 was used to pay down our net interest-bearing debt by almost $52 million, improving our ratio of net interest-bearing debt to Adjusted EBITDA to 4.0x at the end of Fiscal 2015 compared to 4.4x a year earlier. Also, in the second quarter of 2015, the Board of Directors approved a CAD$0.015 per share increase to the Company’s annual dividend, representing a 14.3% increase and the seventh consecutive year that the annual dividend has been increased.

  1. Domestic currency is before the impact of converting our Canadian dollar (“CAD”) operations to United States dollars (“USD”). Financial information presented in domestic currency reflects mixed currencies, i.e. CAD for our Canadian operations and USD for our U.S. operations.
  2. Please refer to High Liner Foods’ Management’s Discussion and Analysis Introduction section beginning on page 12 of this Annual Report which defines all non-IFRS financial measures.

Delicious meals made easy

We are dedicated to making it easy for busy North Americans to enjoy the superior taste and nutritional benefits of seafood by introducing innovative and delicious value-added products that take only minutes to prepare.

For delicious fish taco and other recipe ideas visit www.highliner.com or www.seacuisine.com
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During the past year, we have added new talent from outside the organization and promoted from within to elevate our commitment to commercial excellence.

Despite the disappointing levels of seafood volumes and sales over the past year, we remain optimistic about the seafood industry and especially High Liner Foods’ prospects within it. Seafood is in a long-term uptrend on the strength of its health and nutritional benefits because North American consumers are increasingly aware of the quality of the foods they eat. We are the leading value-added frozen seafood supplier in North America, having grown from about $250 million to $1 billion in sales over the past eight years, fuelled by the acquisition of five seafood companies over that time period. During the past year, we have been completing the foundational work required to tap the shared potential of our businesses by aligning our sales and marketing teams, improving product lines, consolidating support functions and optimizing our production facilities. Today, we are executing a growth strategy that is meant to take full advantage of our scale and capabilities.

1. Organic sales growth
While the consolidation of the North American seafood industry will continue to present acquisition opportunities, our primary focus moving forward will be on increasing High Liner Foods’ organic growth rate. During the past year, we have added new talent from outside the organization and promoted from within to elevate our commitment to commercial excellence. Our sales and marketing teams are embracing a more effective approach to solutions-based selling, with the support of advanced market research and analytics that show how our brands resonate with consumers, how we can make our customers’ shelf space more productive and how to maximize the effectiveness of pricing and promotional decisions. Commercial excellence is all about understanding our customers, building strong relationships and delivering on their expectations.

The second key to organic growth is product innovation. In the highly fragmented U.S. frozen seafood market, where we hold less than a 4% share of frozen fish sales in the U.S. retail channel1, we see abundant potential. During the past year, we made substantial investments to enhance the visibility and value of our Sea Cuisine, Fisher Boy and C. Wirthy & Co. brands and introduced several new products to the market. These efforts have begun to pay off in the form of heightened customer and consumer awareness and encouraging results from recent product launches.

Organic growth in Canada requires a different approach. Here, we are a market leader in both food retail and foodservice, so while there is some room to increase our share of the market, our best opportunity is to help increase the size of the market overall. Seafood is a high-protein, low-fat food that is rich in omega-3s. As stewards of the frozen fish category in Canada, we are committed to getting this message out to the country’s increasingly health-conscious families and sparking an unprecedented movement in seafood consumption.

In 2015, our Canadian business entered into an agreement with the National Hockey League that has made High Liner Foods the “Official Frozen Seafood of the NHL®” for the next three years. Our first campaign launched in March this year with the “High Liner Stanley Cup® Playoffs House Party Contest”, a multi-media contest offering $500,000 in total prizes including tickets, transportation and accommodation for the 2016 Stanley Cup® Playoffs.

 

  1. Market share is estimated by IRI® (Information Resources Inc.), which tracks all grocery stores, supercenters (including Walmart) and club store channels (excluding Costco). The category reported here is for all types of frozen seafood (including fish and shellfish, and excluding seafood entrées), whether breaded or unbreaded. Market shares reported are based on pounds for the categories indicated and is for the year ended January 3, 2016.

    NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and the Stanley Cup Playoffs logo are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League.
    © NHL 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Unique and versatile

The uniqueness and versatility of our foodservice product line is making it easier for restaurants to offer a wider selection of seafood entrees and appetizers on their menus.

Beyond the annual savings generated, the optimization of our supply chain has also helped to build a foundation for incremental improvement as we move forward.

In Canada, we have also begun to promote seafood consumption through new social media campaigns such as The Captain’s Back and through closed circuit programming in more than 1,500 doctors’ offices across the country.

Similar work is underway in the U.S., where we have joined forces with the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP) in support of their national public health education campaign. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines recommend eating seafood twice a week for optimal health, yet only 1 in 10 Americans currently follow this advice. We are working to change this by supporting SNP’s message that incorporating more seafood into one’s diet is a simple and enjoyable way to improve health.

2. Operating efficiency and cost management
The other half of the equation for achieving profitable growth is operating efficiency and cost management. This strategic goal has superseded supply chain optimization, reflecting the fact that most of our supply chain initiatives have been implemented. In the second quarter of 2015, we consolidated production by closing our leased plant in Malden, MA and shifting production to our other U.S. manufacturing facilities. Since then, we have successfully raised all facilities to a higher standard of efficiency, improving yields, increasing throughput and achieving significant cost savings. We have also largely completed our optimization initiatives at the consolidated level, standardizing and consolidating ingredients and packaging, and improving our global supply chain and procurement activities.

In 2015, we realized more than $6 million in pre-tax savings associated with these initiatives and had production levels been greater, allowing our plants to operate closer to peak efficiency, these savings would have been higher. In 2016, we expect our plants will operate closer to peak efficiency as reductions in the cost of raw materials should help to improve the competitive position of seafood and increase overall volumes. Also, we plan to further consolidate our production network in 2016 by ceasing value-added fish production at our New Bedford facility, which is expected to reduce annual pre-tax operating costs by $7 million. Supply chain optimization activities have created additional capacity in our three remaining plants to absorb production from New Bedford and still provide sufficient capacity to meet our growth objectives going forward.

Beyond the annual savings generated, the optimization of our supply chain has also helped to build a foundation for incremental improvement as we move forward. The chief reason for this is the development of the “High Liner Foods Operating System”, which has established an enterprise-wide set of rules and procedures and helped to embed a culture of continuous improvement in everything we do. Although most of the heavy lifting of supply chain optimization is behind us, we will continue to focus on gaining incremental efficiencies in our production process and remain disciplined about minimizing our internal cost structure. At the same time, we see abundant opportunity to better leverage the scale and pricing power of our $1 billion company.

Sustainably sourced seafood

High Liner Foods has played a leading role in the recovery of the world’s major fisheries and was recognized in 2015 by seafoodintelligence.com as an industry leader in seafood sustainability policies and disclosures.

Leadership Team 

Paul Snow, Jeff O’Neill, Tim Rorabeck, Keith Decker, Paul Jewer, Joanne Brown, Peter Brown

3. Talent management
Our third strategic goal significantly broadens our previous focus on succession planning, a process that was necessitated by the retirement of several veteran leaders and the need to replace them with capable leaders who could drive the next stage of growth at High Liner Foods. With that process behind us, we have turned our attention to acquiring, developing and retaining the people who are critical to the success of our organization on an ongoing basis. This means ensuring that we have the right people, in the right roles, to successfully run the business today, while systematically developing the leaders who are needed to ensure our success in the future. To make this a way of life at High Liner Foods, we have developed a five-pillar approach to human resources that encompasses recruitment, onboarding, talent identification, talent development and succession planning. Our talent management strategy, and the new information systems that support it, are a key part of our efforts to engage and develop our employees, align their efforts with our growth strategies, and further strengthen our corporate culture as a distinguishing competitive advantage.

On the horizon
High Liner Foods’ performance will be influenced by a number of external factors in 2016. These include the cost of raw materials and the value of the Canadian dollar, which affects the price of our products compared to competing animal proteins. The cost of raw materials began to decline late in 2015 and we expect this trend to continue in 2016. Reported sales are also affected by the value of the Canadian dollar, which declined significantly in 2015 and may continue to lose value in the year ahead. Within this environment, we will execute our growth strategy to the best of our ability, and above all, advance our mission to radically simplify selecting, preparing and enjoying seafood at its best.

In closing, I would like to extend my appreciation to those who have made my first year at the helm such a rewarding experience. Former CEO Henry Demone worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth leadership transition and as Chairman, along with the rest of the Board, has continued to provide valued guidance and support. I would also like to thank our talented Senior Management Team and the more than 1,400 employees whose efforts helped us to continue advancing our growth strategies in a challenging year. With the much appreciated and ongoing support of our customers, suppliers, business partners and investors, we look forward to reporting on our progress in the year ahead.



Sincerely,


Keith Decker,
President & Chief Executive Officer

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Contact Us

High Liner Foods Incorporated
100 Battery Point, P.O. Box 910
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
B0J 2C0 Canada

Tel : 1-902-634-8811
Fax : 1-902-634-6228
info@highlinerfoods.com

Investor Relations & Corporate
investor@highlinerfoods.com
Tel: 1-902-634-8811