Seafood firm fishing for awards

APrix d’Elite award from the global Seafood Expo — the world’s largest seafood event — is expected to prove a significant catch for Cork company Irish Atlantic Seafood Company (Iasc), writes Trish Dromey.

Seafood firm fishing for awards

“It’s one of just six awards given at the event this year and is a huge boost for us,” says Iasc managing director Colin Ross. “It will help with our plans to open up export markets in Europe, the US and Asia.”

Iasc received the award last month for its innovative line of shellfish butters, which are designed to enhance the flavour of fish dishes. Selling under the Something Fishy brand, the products combine shellfish protein with Irish butter and seasoning to produce an ‘umami’ taste. “After sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, umami is the fifth taste — it means savoury deliciousness,” Mr Ross says.

The company has applied for a patent on the process of producing the seafood protein. Mr Ross says the seafood butter is a world first.“It offers a natural method of bringing out flavour in fish and seafood dishes that does not involve MSG, chemicals, or excessive salt,” he says.

The unique product was recognised at the World Food Innovation awards, held in London in March, when the shellfish butter won the award for best new condiment.

Established in 2012, Iasc has been selling to the foodservice industry in Ireland since late 2013 and launched its new range of retail products into SuperValu stores last month. It also has distributors in the UK, selling both to retail and food-service players.

“In Ireland, we sell in 50 retail stores, including SuperValu, as well as independent fish shops,” says Mr Ross. “Our first food-service customer was Pallas Foods and our products are now used in high-end hotels and restaurants, which include the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Hayfield Manor in Cork, and Doonbeg Golf Club.”

Mr Ross believes the biggest growth in the future will come from supplying the company’s products to large food companies for use as an ingredient.

Iasc is finalising negotiations with British Airways, which this summer will start using the company’s culinary butter in shellfish risotto being served to passengers in first class. “We are now talking to a number of large food companies and we see significant opportunities for business-to-business sales,” says Mr Ross.

Since becoming the first Irish winner of a Prix d’Elite award, Iasc has received a large order for its retail and food service products from Malaysian distributor Classic Fine Food.

Back in 2011, Mr Ross and fellow company founders James Grimes came up with the idea of shellfish butter when Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) asked their company, Prestige Catering, for new seafood product ideas. Participating in the Bord Bia Foodworks programme, they set up Iasc, developed a process for drying shellfish and seaweed, and found a company to co-produce the products.

“We produce the seafood powder ourselves at Teagasc in Dublin,” says Mr Ross. “We use mussels from Fastnet Mussels in West Cork, crab from Shellfish de la Mer, seaweed from Wild Irish Sea Veg, while Athlone food company Oliver Carthy combines the ingredients with butter and packages the products.”

Supported by BIM, Bord Bia, and Enterprise Ireland, the company received an innovation grant and a feasibility study grant at the early stages. The founders put in their own money and raised some funding from private investors.

Currently employing two full-time staff as well as four part-time employees, iASC is working on new products and plans to have a range of 20 within a few years. It has a retail range with three flavours of shellfish butter and plans to launch a gluten-free umami fry crumb and an umami seafood curry later this year.

Iasc is raising further funding in order to develop sales internationally. “We plan to grow sales in the UK and to develop markets in France, Germany, Scandinavia, the US, the Gulf, and Asia,” Mr Ross says. “We are talking to a number of distributors and to Gate Gourmet, the largest airline catering company in the world.”

Iasc’s goals for 2015 include a place to double sales and recruit its first full-time field sales person.

The Irish Atlantic Seafood Company has been rewarded for its innovative use of shellfish butters, writes Trish Dromey

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