The Scottish Salmon Company is one of the nation's leading exporters of salmon, delivering around 20% of the national output. BQ caught up with the team ahead of the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2016 to see how they made a splash across the globe.
What does your company do?
Salmon is Scotland’s largest food export, representing about 40% of total exports. The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) is one of the leading producers of premium salmon in Scotland delivering around 20% of national output.
The company is engaged in all stages of the value chain from smolt production through freshwater and marine farming to harvesting and processing, as well as sales and marketing activity.
SSC has over 450 staff and operates more than 60 farms across the West coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, supporting local economies and communities in remote and rural locations to produce the highest quality Scottish salmon.
How long has the company been exporting?
SSC was formed in 2009 following an amalgamation of smaller salmon farms and has been exporting to France, since its formation.
However, over the past 18 months the focus has been to develop exports which have now achieved around 50% of revenue to 24 different countries, as well as investing in market research and working with key partners to ensure a strong customer portfolio has been developed.
What do you currently export, and where to?
Our salmon is exported fresh as either whole fish, or fillets to 24 countries around the world and now accounts for nearly half of our annual revenue.
We aim to deliver fresh salmon to our international customers within 24 hours of harvesting if they are based in Europe and 48 hours to Asia and beyond.
We are continuing to drive sales in European markets, introducing new pre-rigor fillets and other innovative products. Sales in emerging markets in Asia have increased by around a third.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Scottish produce has a strong reputation over the world and Scottish salmon has a premium position in the UK, so we decided to target sales on exports. Provenance is absolutely fundamental.
The trusted Scottish brand, premium reputation and natural environment in which we farm salmon is extremely sought after.
Supply chain integrity, transparency and traceability have been central to our success internationally. The salmon we export are gill tagged and have QR codes to reinforce our provenance and guarantee traceability, by highlighting the farms where the salmon have been produced.
SSC was recently awarded the prestigious Label Rouge accreditation for salmon, which meets the strict criteria with regards to quality, husbandry, feed and traceability. This accreditation has allowed us to further penetrate the premium French market and we’re now developing sales in other European countries.
Strategic partnerships with Scottish Development International have made the export process and experience easier and faster, however, it is an ongoing process as we are focussed on developing the customer base and working in key regions.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
The Scottish brand for premium food and drink is a great door opener and differentiator in specific parts of the world, which has supported our efforts to enter new markets and regions.
And the most challenging part?
It takes time to develop relationships and key long-term partners in strategic target markets.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
We encourage potential and existing international customers to visit us in Scotland and see our salmon and operations first hand, as we believe this builds trust and is an important element to building long term international customer relationships.
The key part is appreciating cultural differences, through market research and understanding the customers’ needs, as well as having an integrated plan throughout the organisation.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We have received invaluable support from Scotland Food and Drink and Scottish Development International throughout, creating opportunities for us to exhibit at international trade expos, as well as providing on the ground support, expertise in local markets and introductions.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
With approximately 50% of our revenues coming from export markets it’s an area that has become a central part of our business.
But it wasn’t something we took lightly and required extensive research into demographics, trends, key supply chain dynamics and import legislation.
Companies need to build up a body of evidence to support an international strategy and then be confident about having the processes and partners in place to deliver the goods.
No regrets there are plenty of opportunities, the only obstacle is managing the development of production and supply to match the sales opportunities.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years’ time?
Our continued focus is to innovate and introduce new premium niche products in international markets.
The focus remains to grow our presence in North America and the Far East and these regions will be a priority over the next few years.
We are now taking on regional representatives based in specific target markets with local knowledge to ensure smooth running, development of export sales and that they continue to increase in line with production.
Exporting and international trade remain high on the Scottish Government’s economic growth agenda and the HSBC Scottish Export Awards are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.