Cooke Aquaculture Scotland

Around the World in 80 Trades: Cooke Aquaculture

As a Scottish salmon producer, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland benefit from a high global demand for Scottish quality. We caught up with them to find out more about the challenges of exporting fresh produce.

What does your company do?

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland is the 4th largest Scottish salmon producer. We are unique in the Scottish salmon industry, being the only one to propose three product lines: Organic, Label Rouge and Superior Scottish salmon.

In 2014, we joined the Cooke Aquaculture group, headquartered in Eastern Canada, a vertically integrated corporation with operations in Scotland, Atlantic Canada, USA, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Spain. The group employs 5,000 employees worldwide, offering a wide range of farmed and wild seafood products including wild salmon, crab, scallops, hake etc.

In Scotland, our salmon is reared in accordance with exceptional farming practices, making Cooke Aquaculture Scotland a leading sustainability-driven company.

Our on growing farming sites are located in the pristine northern waters of Orkney and Shetland. Smolts are provided by our fresh water nursery sites from mainland Scotland. Our head office in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, houses our sales and logistic team, which is in charge of selling and dispatching all the production to markets around the world.

When was your company launched, who by and why?

Our company is the results of the merger in 2010 of a few salmon farmers: Mainstream Scotland, the Lakeland Group, Thompson Brothers, Westray Salmon under the name of Meridian Salmon Farms. We joined the Cooke Aquaculture group in 2014.

How long has the company been exporting?

Exports have always been at the heart of our strategy since the establishment of the company. The acquisition by Cooke Aquaculture Inc. in 2014 has given us the investment in time and people to develop new markets.

What do you currently export, and where to?

We are marketing our fish in the USA, Canada, Continental Europe, Asia and the Middle East. They are sold mainly as whole fish, but also as fillets and portions, fresh and frozen.

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?

The salmon market is global and the demand for Scottish quality very high. Our unique location enables us to offer premium products, targeting niche and high-end markets. Exports is therefore a natural route.

What's the most challenging part of exporting?

Logistics of fresh products is always a tricky part of export sales.

Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?

The same product can be sold in different countries, but it may be perceived differently in each one of them. The importance of culture in the selling arguments could be challenging. An American customer will not be sensible to the same argument as a French customer. 

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?

We have been using the services of Scottish Development International to exhibit at a central place in an international show. This helped us in developing our customer portfolio and increase our reputation in our market.

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?

Establishing a good logistics system is key to long-term success in exports. It will ensure not only the quality of the products but also that the customers will be satisfied, will be buying again and will pay for the goods.

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?

We are considering any export markets where opportunities arise. Southern Asia and the Middle East are new emergent markets for us.

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland is also focusing on increasing the value of our exports in our traditional markets by diversifying our product portfolio.

Cooke Aquaculture Scotland have been shortlisted in the Scottish Export Team of the Year category at the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2017 in association with Scottish Enterprise. Join us on 22 March to celebrate international trade across Scotland.