Brendan Maher, St James Smokehouse

Brendan Maher, St James Smokehouse

Around the World in 80 Trades: St James Smokehouse

Producing authentic Scottish smoked salmon, St James Smokehouse now export all over the world. We caught up with them about their export journey...

What does your company do?

St. James Smokehouse® is a traditional family owned company located in the Royal Burgh of Annan, Scotland where we produce premium quality salmon fillets and multi award-winning Scottish smoked salmon.

We are proud to have been honoured with accolades including Scotland Food & Drink “Export Business of the Year” and “Business of the Year”. We have won numerous gold medals from the UK Guild of Fine Foods’ Great Taste Awards, 5 gold medals at the Monde Selection, International Institute for Quality Selections, and “Best Retail Product” at the Boston Seafood Show.

St. James’ recipe for success begins with sourcing the finest sustainable Scottish salmon. The salmon is cured with an all natural blend of sea salt and demerara sugar, before being oak-wood smoked to perfection.

When was your company launched, who by and why?

St. James Smokehouse® was launched in 2003 by Brendan Maher and his wife Alexandra. Our dream was to create the world’s no. 1 smoked salmon with the perfect amount of smoke and salt content for a flavour that was recognised all over the world.

How long has the company been exporting?

St. James Smokehouse® has been exporting from day one of production. We saw a gap in the US market for a genuine product of Scotland. Customers were tired of “Scottish Style” imitation smoked salmon and embraced the authentic product.

What do you currently export, and where to?

St. James Smokehouse® exports smoked salmon to: UK, USA, AUSTRALIA, FRANCE, ITALY, GERMANY, AUSTRIA, SWITZERLAND, SPAIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, HONG KONG, THAILAND, CANADA, JAPAN, THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, LATVIA, LITHUANIA, GREECE, BARBADOS, PORTUGAL, CZECH REPUBLIC, SIGNAPORE, SOUTH AFRICA, MEXICO

What motivated you to start selling overseas?

A high demand for a quality Scottish product.

What is the easiest part of exporting?

St. James Smokehouse had a distribution facility in Miami ready to receive the product and ship throughout the USA.

And the most challenging part?

US Food And Drug Administration rules and regulations. 

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

When St. James Smokehouse first began smoking salmon, the rate of exchange for the pound against the US dollar was the worst it had ever been. This made things very difficult to compete with the domestic smoked salmon producers in the US. However, now the currency exchange is in our favour.

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

The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Scotland Food & Drink helped with trade shows.

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

Attend trade shows and use the support of the Scottish government to guide you.

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

We are continually looking to expand our global market. With the help of social media, it is making the world a smaller place.

St James Smokehouse have been shortlisted in the Most Entrepreneurial Exporter category at the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2017 in association with Scottish Enterprise. Join us on 22 March to celebrate international trade across Scotland.