Trout: The new salmon?
By Nicki Holmyard, SeafoodSource contributing editor
24 July, 2012
Dawnfresh Seafoods, well known for its scampi, is now the major player in the UK trout industry, and Chairman Alastair Salvesen has a burning ambition for his fish.
“Our aim is to make trout the new salmon,” he said. This may seem to be a tall order, given that trout sales in the UK have been declining in recent years. But Salvesen’s working to reverse that trend.
His company began farming and processing trout (Oncoryhnchus mykiss) in Scotland in 2008 when it purchased ScotTrout and formed Dawnfresh Farming Ltd. It took several years of considerable investment in people, equipment and technology to put the company on a new footing.
Farm director Dr. Gideon Pringle and seawater farm manager Sean Lydon were amongst the people recruited from the salmon-farming industry to bring a new professionalism and know-how to the operation, and to help realize its potential. The main aims of improving quality and increasing volumes have gradually been achieved, and the respect of retailers and the opening of export markets have been the reward.
New boats, fish pens, mooring equipment and shore-side buildings, together with extensive training for staff, have all played their part in achieving this, while the introduction of a corporate ID on vehicles and buildings ensures that Dawnfresh Farming will be a recognized entity in the fish-farming world.
Lydon explained that Dawnfresh grows small portion-sized trout in freshwater lochs and larger fish, up to 6 kilograms (12 to 13 pounds) in size, in Loch Etive, a seawater loch on the west coast. “Its brackish water provides the right conditions for fish to thrive but prevents problems with sea lice, which means we don’t need to use therapeutants,” he said. About 2,000 tons will be harvested this year and 3,000 tons in 2013, and planning permission is anticipated for a new 3,500-ton unit in Loch Etive.
The fish are all grown to Quality Trout standards and conform to Scottish Fishfish Aquaculture’s Code of Good Practice. “We are also leading the way in developing a new standard for trout through Freedom Food, the RSPCA’s farm assurance and food labeling scheme, and hope to be the first compliant trout farm by the end of the year,” said Sean.
Freshwater-grown fish traditionally go to the UK market, where they are sold in major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Dawnfresh grows around 2,400 tons per year and contract buys another 2,000 tons.
There is potential to expand this market, and Dawnfresh has developed a number of new fresh and smoked products. But it first needs to address consumer reticence for buying trout before the retailers will take them onboard.
“We are dealing with a very traditional market, and our research shows that consumers think of trout as small, whole fish, which they don’t associate with any particular buying occasion. Our challenge is to make them familiar with value-added products and with whole sides and portions from sea-grown trout. The good thing is consumers who try trout tell us it is superior in taste and texture to salmon they have eaten,” explained marketing manager Russell Donaldson.
While work is underway on growing the UK market, it is the export of large trout that offers the most exciting potential for Dawnfresh, according to Donaldson.
“We went to the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels for the first time this year and were pleased with the huge number of enquires. Some of these have already turned into business and others are progressing well,” he said. “We displayed our largest fish, much as people display prize salmon, and this captured the attention of buyers from all over the world. They were impressed by both the size and quality, which showed us that we have got it right.”
Tagged and branded “Loch Etive Ocean Trout” are already selling into the U.S. market at a rate of 3 tons per week and growing. Sales are also developing in France, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa, and a visit is expected this month from Japanese customers.
“These are exiting times for us, and success depends on the farming and processing sides continuing to work well together to maintain customer confidence,” said Donaldson, “but we remain quietly confident of success.”
24 July, 2012