PORT TO PLATE HELPS SEAFOOD ENTERPRISES NET NEW LOCAL CUSTOMERS
Port to Plate Helps Seafood Enterprises Net New Local Customers – Continental markets may have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Welsh seafood businesses have successfully changed course and found new ways to sell their catch.
With technical and marketing support from the ‘Port to Plate’ project, as well as help to identify new markets, many fishermen and seafood businesses have found new outlets – from box schemes to nationwide deliveries.
Launched in February by Menter a Busnes, ‘Port to Plate’ carves out a distinct identity for seafood products from Wales and supports the development of Wales’ seafood industry across the supply chain.
Since then, much of Port to Plate’s work has been as a direct response to COVID-19, while continuing to promote the industry and encourage consumers to buy Welsh Seafood and #BuyLocal using the Welsh Seafood Map
Said Siân Davies, Port to Plate Development Manager, “From the start of lockdown, we have consulted with Welsh Seafood businesses to assess their situation so that we can determine the true reflection of the situation in Wales.
“We’ve also worked on raising awareness within the Welsh fishing fleet of what guidelines and procedures they need to follow to sell their catch directly to the consumer. This includes sourcing of appropriate packaging.
Through Port to Plate’s social media handles – @porthirplat and @porttoplate – consumers have been signposted to a wealth of information about Welsh Seafood. Details include where to buy it, as well as cooking tips and recipes from top chefs.
Said Siân, “Going forward, we will be looking at how we can support the hospitality sector to work closer with Welsh fishermen and to use and promote Welsh Seafood in their establishments. We also have some exciting seasonal ideas and recipes to try at home coming up, and Welsh Seafood alternatives for events such as Christmas!
WELSH SEAFOOD CASE STUDIES
Conwy fisherman, Carl Davies, is using mobile technology to reach new customers.
When the pandemic hit, Carl – whose family established angling enterprise ‘Orme Sea Fishing Trips’ 55 years ago – initially saw his markets “completely dry up”.
Over the years the enterprise has diversified from angling to 80 per cent of the business being shellfish and fish.
COVID-19 restrictions saw previous continental and local outlets for his lobster and crab close, and he says “we were in the position for about a month or so where we struggled to sell anything.”
Never having sold direct to the public, the former marine biologist and fishery officer, began advertising locally – posting on the North Wales Fish Direct Facebook page.
Also, through his own Twitter-feed (@Goglington) and through industry-wide project ‘Port to Plate’, Carl is creating a faithful following.
He says, “I’ve got about 35 core customers – most of them new – whom I text the day before we sail each week to ask if there are any orders. I reckon about 90 per cent of my direct sales to the public currently comes via text. It’s not big scale, and I don’t expect it ever will be, but its building.”
His traditional markets are slowly starting to come back, and Carl is part of the recently launched Welsh lobster ‘branded claw scheme. Co-ordinated by the Wales Seafood Cluster, the scheme aims to help Welsh lobsters stand out in the marketplace.
He says, “Once the restaurants and hotels reopen for the summer season, they’ll be able to buy local Welsh lobsters, with provenance that is simply delivered by the branded claw bands.”
More information: Twitter @Goglington
CATCH OF THE DAY
Lockdown has been a seminal moment for new Ceredigion fishmongers Jane and Richard Roche, who have adapted their fledgling enterprise for a new world.
A career-change seven years ago saw the couple open ‘The Fishermen’s Rest’ café on the quayside in Cardigan, with the premises serving as their home as well as their business.
Last year saw another change, when driven by a desire to source more locally caught fish they took the plunge and trained as fishmongers – buying direct from local fishermen and merchants.
They opened ‘Catch of the Day’ with plans for Easter 2020 as the start of their first full season. But it was not to be, as not one, but both of their enterprises were put into lockdown.
“Our café closed on March 21st and the fish merchants where we got most of our supplies closed a few days later,” says Jane.
But they have used the time to adapt their business. A van that had been purchased at the beginning of the year – with a view to future expansion – now is the mode of delivery direct to the public – who also buy their fish boxes from the quayside.
As Richard has to shield, opening the café and fishmongers will have to wait; but in the meantime, he and Jane have been participating in a raft of on-line courses and seafood sector meetings.
Says Jane, “I’ve been attending anything I can. There have been Seafood Cluster and Cywain events – they have kept me sane, especially in the first 6-8 weeks. Also steering group meetings which have given me more insight into the industry and had access to people from processors to academics.
“The pandemic has made us re-think and prioritise things, and when we open up again it will be a different type of business.”
More information: Facebook @Catchoftheday
For Berwyn Dennis business during the pandemic “has gone from one extreme to the other.”
With the usual market for his rod and line caught seabass shut down, Berwyn – who runs Albatross Fisheries – has consigned his boat to his shed. Until that is his daughter Kaylie convinced him otherwise.
“With no market, there was no incentive to go out,” said Berwyn who has fished out of Saundersfoot for 30 years. “But Kaylie said ‘let’s put something on Facebook’.”
“There was a lot of interest from the public, and in no-time I had ½ a tonne of fish on order. Then people started asking me if I did other types of wet fish – so now I’m sourcing UK caught cod, hake, and salmon as well as monkfish tails and smoked haddock. It’s stuff I’ve not sold before, but people are loving it.”
The Port to Plate project also included Albatross Fisheries on a map they created at the start of lockdown of where to buy Welsh Seafood in Wales.
Said Berwyn, “This raised further awareness that Albatross Fisheries were and are still trading during the pandemic, and able to supply Welsh seafood, which seems to have increased the demand even further.”
Orders are placed through the Albatross Fisheries website and delivered around Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire on Wednesdays.
Said Berwyn, “It’s not something I’ve done before, and now we’re in the situation as to whether we carry on doing this when the original markets open up again. Ideally, I’d like to expand and have a container unit on site, to allow us to be able to meet the demand.”
More information: www.albatrossfisheries.co.uk
Photo: Jane Roche of Cardigan fishmonger ‘Catch of the Day’.