Through the Business Aftercare programme, The Blue Sea Food Company has been working with the TDA to maximise exporting opportunities and grow. TDA works with local businesses like The Blue Sea Food Company to support them with business development, exploring new markets, developing skills and accessing funded support programmes.
The company is continuing to grow and is expanding into new markets including France, Spain, Portugal, USA, Asia and China. Exporting now accounts for 50% of their business, largely accountable from the live products market.
The company employs 120 staff which grows to around 200 employees during the high season. Blue Sea Food is also looking to develop apprenticeship opportunities with local colleges over the next couple of years.
The Blue Sea Food Company is facing 3 main challenges:
- Crab supply: With more and more crab being exported to China there is less crab available to the UK Processors. To try to mitigate this problem the company is looking to invest in boats
- Crab price: With supply short, crab prices have increased by more than 30% in a season. Unless exports to China decrease, which is unlikely, this increase will continue. New facilities will help to reduce the effects of this increase through greater productivity. However, there will have to be large price increases which may reduce the demand for crab meat in the UK. The company has also set up and are expanding our live crab exports to China
- Staff shortages: it has never been easy to find staff to work in our business, however, with the weak pound and Brexits insistence to reduce immigration this problem will only increase. Minimum wages are increasing by 4.4% this year but we will have to increase wages across the team by at least this amount in order to compete for labour. Other avenues we are exploring include outsourcing some process overseas.
Currently Blue Sea Food provides pasteurised crab meat, a process where the meat is preserved in an air tight container to improve its shelf life. However, this is only one half of the crab meat market, the other half being the provision of high value fresh crab meat. Fresh crab meat is much more difficult to produce due to its limited shelf life and the additional facilities needed for processing, therefore the value of the market is higher and there is a demand surplus.
Blue Sea Food is augmenting its current pasteurised market offering, by entering into the fresh crab meat market to provide a more diverse crab meat product range and access larger, more lucrative national and export markets. Their ‘Promoting Sustainable Net Growth’ project ensures that Blue Sea Food continues to operate as the UK’s biggest processor of crab meat and provides added sustainability for the company by providing the opportunity to enter the fresh crab meat market. This safeguards the future of the company and places it in an ideal position for any changes in the market, as Blue Sea Food can provide both fresh and pasteurised crab meat.
At the heart of Blue Sea Food’s overall business plan is the addition of new jobs, benefiting the local economy and driving further company and regional growth. This project, by creating an additional 10 FTE roles, fits with this company goal and increases the company’s production capability. Additional job growth takes the form of increased work load for management, marketing and sales staff. Attending the South Devon Jobs Fair helps Blue Sea Food find candidates for these positions.
SWGF grant funding will be used to deliver the key element of this project, improving the current facilities so that they are compliant with EHO regulations regarding the processing of fresh crab meat. To achieve this there needs to be improvements to current equipment, improvements to the infrastructure and the addition of a sub-station to improve electricity supply. All of these components will provide Blue Seafood with the facilities needed to increase product diversification through the addition of fresh crab meat processing.
This project is an important step in the company’s life cycle. The ability to offer a diverse range of products in a market that has a demand surplus improves the long term prospects of the company and will lead to further company growth. This project, by giving Blue Sea Food more stability, provides further growth opportunities that will lead to increased export potential, expanded facilities and increased job creation.
Blue Seafood won the Growth in Overseas category in the 2017 South Devon Business Excellence awards. Find out how you can apply for the awards at www.tda-business.com
For advice on investment opportunities in Torbay and the support TDA can provide contact Jason Buck, Investment Development Manager on 01803 208799 or email firstname.lastname@example.org