Irish seafood center delivers results
By Nicki Holmyard, SeafoodSource contributing editor
30 October, 2012
When BIM’s Seafood Development Center (SDC) opened in 2009 with the aim of helping the Irish seafood industry to restructure, it promised support to companies to achieve EUR 100 million (USD 129.7 million) in additional value-added seafood sales over the following five years. Three years on, it has a number of success stories under its belt and continues to innovate to achieve targets set out in the Government adopted industry strategy for 2007-2013.
The value of the Irish market is currently more than EUR 745 million (USD 966 million), made up of EUR 315 million (USD 408.4 million) in the home market and EUR 430 million (USD 557.5 million) in exports. Shellfish valued at EUR 158.6 million (USD 205.6 million) and pelagic fish at EUR 149.4 million (USD 193.7 million) are the top product categories. Key export markets for Irish exports have traditionally been France, Spain, UK, Germany, Italy and Nigeria, but China is now seen to offer exciting potential for growth.
Exports of Irish seafood to China in 2011 were valued at EUR 2.9 million (USD 3.8 million), but trade in the first six months of 2012 topped EUR 5.3 million (USD 6.9 million). Trade in pelagic species accounted for EUR 2.1 million (USD 2.7 million) of total exports in 2011 and EUR 4.7 million (USD 6.1 million) in the year to date. The demand for Irish crab is also growing and is expected to reach at least EUR 1 million (USD 1.3 million) in 2012.
The SDC is part of a program that is helping companies to use new technology, develop greater processing capability, look at new product development and improved packaging, and move away from a reliance on sales of commodity products.
It is currently running a series of seafood innovation workshops to address these areas and its most recent event looked at how innovative packaging technology and techniques can boost profits, reduce overheads and increase sales.
More than 20 seafood companies attended the workshop, to hear presentations and see demonstrations from a wide range of packaging companies.
Susan Steele, BIM’s innovation coordinator, explained that SDC has worked with a large number of seafood companies, and packaging technology is always a key area of focus. “It is important that the seafood sector keeps up with technological developments in this fast changing environment. The packaging event helped companies to research the type of packaging best suited to their products and which offered the best return on investment. It was well received by delegates,” she said.
The next workshop in the series is on innovative ingredients, followed by innovative smoking technologies and seaweed innovation. “We believe that innovation is key to the success of our industry and estimate that for every 10 percent conversion from a commodity product to a value-added one, an additional EUR 35-40 million per annum in sales can be generated,” advised Steele.
BIM has also been helping companies to build scale and improve their route to market, and according to Business Development and Innovation Manager Donal Buckley, this area is also high priority. “Our seafood enjoys an excellent reputation but we need to pool individual companies’ resources to reduce duplication costs, boost profitability, improve customer service and time to market,” he said.
One success story resulting from BIM assistance is Atlantic Gold, a new branded range of shellfish including prawns, crab, lobster, razor clams, scallops and whitefish products that have been developed to service the growing demand for quality seafood in the Chinese market. The brand is a joint venture between two top Irish companies, Atlanfish and Rockabill. Their range is initially destined for the food service sector with the aim of also rolling out to retail outlets and will be unveiled at the China Seafood and China Fisheries & Seafood Expo in Dalian next week.
Buckley explained that by joining together, the two companies can offer a greater volume of seafood. They control 75 percent of the total catch of Irish prawns, 65 percent of Irish whitefish and 50 percent of Irish crab, so they can guarantee volume, quality, consistency, full traceability and reliability in the marketplace. They also keep razor fish live on-board in tanks ready for air-freighting to China. “We believe that products from their new venture will be well received in China and look forward to seeing the results of effective collaboration,” he said.
30 October, 2012