Road to Boston: Scotland grows, carefully

For the first time, Scottish Development International, the Scottish government’s international economic development agency, is exhibiting at the International Boston Seafood Show, which kicks off in just over a week. Although Scottish seafood companies have exhibited individually at the annual three-day event, the Scottish Development International opted this year to bolster Scotland’s presence at North America’s largest seafood event by joining in.

The decision to exhibit at the Boston Seafood Show is part of a larger effort to ramp up promotion of Scottish seafood products worldwide, Nathan Elia, senior VP of Scottish Development International’s U.S. East Coast region, told SeafoodSource on Thursday. The U.S. and Canadian markets are of particular interest to Scottish seafood producers, given the potential for growth.

“There has been a steady increase in demand for Scottish seafood products, and to be specific Scottish salmon products, in the U.S. market over the past several years. A number of the retail buyers and distributors serving high-end foodservice buyers are taking a closer look at the product and, in fact, buying product,” explained Elia. “But we haven’t even scratched the surface. Coming to the Boston Seafood Show allows us to reach a wider range of buyers.”

Elia also identified Asia and the Middle East as markets that show a lot of growth potential for Scottish seafood products.

However, Elia emphasized that quality remains the No. 1 selling point for Scottish seafood producers, especially for Scottish salmon producers, and the effort to grow sales worldwide can’t compromise quality.

“We need to be careful with this. Scotland really wants to focus on quality over quantity, and we don’t want to compromise quality,” he said. “We’ve seen what can happen if you try to grow too fast. It presents tremendous problems. Other countries have had serious difficulties and seen their [salmon] production drop off because of [disease outbreaks]. We have to be careful to regulate the industry and ensure that while we want growth we don’t want to compromise quality.”

In the Scottish pavilion, salmon will be the center of attention, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given that Scotland is the world’s third largest salmon producer and that salmon is Scotland’s No. 1 food export, representing some 40 percent of total Scottish food exports.
Five of the six Scottish companies exhibiting at the show are highlighting salmon. The sixth — Orkney Herring Co. Ltd. — is promoting herring. Several other products, including langoustines and scallops, will also be on display.

Elia also addressed the challenge of historically high salmon prices, in terms of consumer price resistance. He said prices of Scottish salmon have been more consistent, rising to a lesser degree than salmon raised in other countries, thanks to consistent production and steady — but not explosive — growth. That sticker shock hasn’t his consumers as much because they’re used to paying more for Scottish salmon, with its reputation for quality, he explained.
“Our message hasn’t changed dramatically,” said Elia. “It’s all about quality.”


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