Rooney Fish taps Godak Marketing as brown crab importer and distributor in Japan

Examples of Rooney Fish's products on display at FOODEX in Tokyo, Japan.

At Japan's 2023 Foodex show at the Tokyo Big Sight venue in 10 March, Andrew Rooney, the second-generation managing partner of Northern Ireland-based Rooney Fish, was on the lookout for a Japanese importer and distributor for his company's brown crab.

Aiming to diversify the markets in which he operates, Rooney set up shop at Foodex, Japan’s largest food exposition with over 73,000 visitors, he eventually found a partner in Godak Marketing. 

The partnership between Tokyo-based Godak, a trading company specializing in high-end marine products, and Rooney centers on Irish crab “captured daily from fresh Irish coastal waters” and “famous for its large size, rich roe content, and its full, sweet flavor,” according to Rooney’s website.

Japan wasn’t the first spot Rooney aimed to export his company's brown crab. China was previously his biggest market, but Covid-era lockdowns, cargo space shortages, and strict inspections for cadmium led Rooney to explore the Japanese market as an alternative.

Godak, founded in 1995, brings expertise to the partnership in importing and distributing across Japan. Clearwater Seafoods is a major supplier to Godak, shipping Arctic surf clams out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, according to publicly available shipping export declaration records. The company’s also products include blue shrimp from New Caledonia, and spot prawns from British Columbia, Canada, under two brands: Takumi and Kagodori. Godak is also Japan's  top importer of abalone from Australia, sold under its Jade Eyes brand. It sells two varieties, the greenlip abalone and the “tiger” variety, a domesticated crossbreed between the greenlip and blacklip, which is a product unique to Godak. Godak touts its high-tech freezing technology it says maintains very high product quality for all its seafood.

Even though Rooney’s crab offerings are now a staple of the company’s product line, this crustacean was not always its main focus. Rooney Fish used to specialize in langoustine and whelk – which he still sells in one-kilogram packs, which were on display at the 2023 Foodex. But Rooney began to offer brown crab simply out of the need to adapt to changing market conditions, he told SeafoodSource.

Established in 1975, Rooney Fish now operates a 6,000-square-meter plant quayside in Kilkeel, County Down, Northern Ireland, the same location where it began nearly 50 years ago.

Rooney's sales of whole langoustine, for which the company’s automated size grading line can handle 10 metric tons (MT) per day, have been limited, however, due to government policies that cut quotas and set exclusion zones to protect wind farm turbines and their electric cables. As a result, Rooney Fish began to handle less langoustine, leading the company to diversify into brown crab. 

Continuing to adapt, it then saw an opportunity in ... 

Photo by Chris Loew/SeafoodSource

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