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Welsh Seafood Cluster Collaboration Creates New Customers

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Seafood from West Wales is being served in East Wales thanks to a recent partnership between two food businesses.

Working together, Torfaen restaurant wholesaler, Vin Sullivan Foods Ltd, and Pembrokeshire seafood business Cardigan Bay Fish have succeeded in boosting their businesses by generating a host of new customers.

With support from the Wales Seafood Cluster, the two enterprises are now delivering seafood to customers across South East Wales.

The Wales Seafood Cluster is a Cywain-led project which encourages and facilitates collaborative working among businesses and individuals in the seafood sector.

Owen Haines, Seafood Cluster Manager (South Wales) said,

“Collaboration is at the heart of the Seafood Cluster, and we hope more fishing and seafood enterprises will join together to build new, sustainable markets for their produce.

“I’m delighted that by working together Vin Sullivan and Cardigan Bay Fish have been able to tap into a new customer base that is eager to buy Welsh seafood.

“Coming together to create new selling opportunities is obviously good for the profile of Welsh Seafood and those whose livelihoods depend on a ready market for their catch.

“The past six months have been particularly difficult and challenging for the fishing industry, and as a Cluster, we have been working closely with many businesses to find ways to mitigate the market affects created by Covid-19.”

Part of the work to promote Welsh Seafood includes the creation of magnetic ‘Welsh Seafood and More to your Door’ signage that may be attached to delivery vehicles.

The eye-catching design highlights the #WelshSeafood and #SupportLocalSupportWales messages promoted by Cywain, as well as the ‘Port to Plate’ project – launched by Menter a Busnes in February – to carve out a distinct identity for seafood products from Wales.

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said,

“Working together Vin Sullivan Foods and Cardigan Bay Fish have successfully generated new markets for both businesses.

“Over the last few months we have seen people increasingly buy local, with innovative and collaborative ventures of this kind creating more opportunities for the public to buy and enjoy a range of fantastic, fresh Welsh produce. This not only boosts local economies but also supports our ambition for a greener Wales with shorter supply chains and healthier seas. I hope more people across Wales will seek out and support them as well as our other top class Welsh food businesses.”

VIN SULLIVAN FOODS LTD

Restaurant wholesaler, Vin Sullivan Foods Ltd, has turned to collaboration to work its way out of the Covid-19 crisis.

In so doing, it has succeeded in bringing Welsh seafood to new customers in South East Wales, and created another outlet for Welsh fishermen.

The Blaenafon-based business has been serving the hospitality sector with a wide variety of food and drink since 1960. However, when the lockdown came into force in March, the company saw its orders collapse.

“Ninety-nine per cent of our trade went overnight,” says general manager, Chris Parker. The restaurants closed, and also local fish markets.”

Vin Sullivan’s is known for the quality of its seafood, and the company was one of the first inland wholesalers to gain the ‘Seafish Processors Award’.

So, it was natural thoughts turned towards how Welsh seafood could still be made available to customers.

As one of the first people in the UK to be awarded Master Fishmonger status, Chris also wanted to do something to help Welsh fishermen who were struggling to fill the gap left by the collapse of their export markets.

Says Chris,

“The idea was to help as many fishermen as possible, and we’ve been working on ideas with Owen at the Seafood Cluster. The Cluster has also provided us with initial packaging and Welsh Seafood signage for our delivery vans.

“The home deliveries took off and now with restaurants re-opening we are selling three times the amount of Welsh lobster and crab as we had done previously.

“We’ve been working with Cardigan Bay Fish to create this opportunity, and we’d like to extend it and work with more Welsh fishermen.”

Chris has created an online shop – The Fish Shack – and orders have also come in via social media, email and telephone.

Through The Fish Shack’s van, Chris and his team have always provided a valuable service to many retired and elderly people via the local weekly food markets in South East Wales such as Abergavenny, Pontypool, and Newport.

Being able to offer these especially loyal customers this superb locally caught Welsh Seafood says Chris is a privilege.

“It has been a learning curve for us as we’ve not been used to dealing with customers in this way. But since Covid-19 people are looking to buy from smaller producers and outlets, and our onsite shop is proving popular.”

More information: www.vinsullivan.com & www.fishshack.co.uk

CARDIGAN BAY FISH

Collaboration comes naturally to Cardigan Bay Fish, with owners Len and Mandy Walters involved in a number of initiatives to highlight the Welsh seafood industry and the quality and abundance of the catch.

Len and their son Aaron, fish all year-round for a variety of fish and shellfish.

Their award-winning St Dogmaels-based enterprise is also a stalwart of local produce markets, where customers flock to buy dishes created by Mandy, such as potted crab and mackerel pâté.

Therefore, when the opportunity came to work with Vin Sullivan in reaching new customers, the couple got on board.

Said Mandy,

“We’ve known Chris at Vin Sullivan for a while, but when lockdown came he approached us to join their new venture. Now, they have been coming down here weekly for more of our live lobster and crab, as well as our potted crab and mackerel pâté.”

Passionate about encouraging more people to enjoy Welsh seafood, Cardigan Bay Fish is also spreading the message by sporting the ‘Welsh Seafood & More to your Door’ signage.

“Being part of the Cluster has helped our business and enabled us to build on our  relationship with Vin Sullivan. It is good too that more Welsh seafood is staying in Wales, and is being sold in the home market.”