For west Cork company DC Fish, winning the 2016 National Fishing Enterprise Award from BIM has little to do with creating a new seafood pie and a lot to do with its ability to keep a finger in several different pies.
Since it was set up 10 years ago, the company has invested in new freezer technology, diversified into supplying retail and food service and, more recently, got involved in a new business producing fish cakes and pies which are now being sold in most SuperValu stores around Co Cork.
Born into a family which has been fishing off Union Hall for several generations, father and son team Niall and William Deasy, established the company after buying a new 22.4 metre Danish-built boat especially designed for prawn fishing.
“A year later DC Fish became one of the first fishing companies in the country to invest in technology which allowed prawns to be graded and frozen at sea.
"Prawns frozen at sea are a premium product and until the crash we were able to sell them directly to wholesalers in Spain,’’ according to DC Fish director and wife of Niall Deasy, Monica Buckley.
Selling in recent years to Castletownbere co-op, DC Fish now employs nine staff and has a turnover of €1.8m.
An opportunity for diversification came along in 2011, when Rosscarbery businessman Peter Shanahan set up a shop selling fish bought directly from the fishing boats.
The Deasys identified this as an additional way to sell the whitefish which represented 20% or 30% of its catch and to generate an additional stream of revenue.
DC Fish bought a 50% share of the Fish Seafood Deli company which has since put two mobile fish vans on the road — one selling to customers and another to hotels and restaurants around Cork county.
The next significant development for the Fish Seafood Deli in 2012 was the setting up, with some assistance from BIM, of a kitchen to produce seafood products which could be sold alongside the fresh fish.
Said Ms Buckley: “Our fish cakes and our seafood pies became very popular, so popular that we soon began supplying them to local shops around west Cork.”
She is also a manager at Fish Seafood Deli which now employs 10 full-time and six part-time staff.
In response to a growing demand for fish cakes and seafood pies, Fish Seafood Deli, with some help from West Cork Local Enterprise Office, set up a separate commercial kitchen with a staff of six in Drinagh to produce for the retail market.
“This came about in March this year following company participation in the SuperValu Food Academy.
“The Food Academy helped us develop all aspects of the new business. This year we also created a new brand for our products — West Cork Gourmet — and have now launched in around 26 SuperValu stores in Cork as well as 12 Centra stores,” said Ms Buckley.
Plans for 2017 include developing a range of three or four fish cakes.
“We are also in discussion with Musgrave and hope to start supplying SuperValu stores in Dublin early next year and to go nationwide over time,” she added.
Ms Buckley believes there are good market opportunities for fresh seafood products which are both convenient and healthy.
“Many retail seafood products are frozen and we have found that there is a strong demand for fresh ones,”
Turnover from Fish Seafood Deli is set to reach €1m this year. Ms Buckley says that the new retail products account for 40% of sales and is expecting this to increase in 2017.
While good growth is expected from the seafood range, the company also plans to grow sales in the shop and vans.
And, as part of a plan to develop sales of prawns, DC Fish is applying to participate in Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme.
With a view to exploring a range of different options for achieving growth in the future, DC Fish is now involved in a consultancy for a French fishing operation which may also throw up some new opportunities.