HIE awards Seaspray (Shetland) Ltd £50,000 to build new packing station

A project to establish a new mussel packing station in Shetland for Seaspray (Shetland) Ltd has been awarded £50,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

HIE awards Seaspray (Shetland) Ltd £50,000 to build new packing station

 Helen Smith (HIE), Gordon Johnson and Andrew Gear (HIE)

The firm recently opened a new mussel packing facility on the waterfront at Laurenson Quay, Lerwick. The project will create four new jobs and allow the company to diversify into new consumer markets.

The business was established in 2007 and was acquired by current owners Gordon and Julie Johnson in 2016. The mussels are sourced from two local family-owned producers, C&A Thomason and Vementry Aquaculture as soon as they come out of the sea.

Around 600 tonnes were packaged and sold each year under the ‘ShetlandSelect’ brand before the pandemic struck and the business was forced to temporarily close.

The company had to adapt its business strategy to reflect the changes in consumer needs. Its main markets were restaurants, hospitality and small retail outlets across the UK, with a smaller proportion of sales heading for Dubai and the Middle East.

The new facility enables the company to package the mussels for convenience in a variety of weights, suited to the customer requirements, rather than the bulk quantities sought by the wholesale trade. Mussels from C&A Thomason will continue to be packaged in Yell to fulfil wholesale orders.

Mussels from Vementry Aquaculture will be processed in Lerwick, which will reduce travel and increase efficiencies, allowing the company to increase production.

Confirming the HIE investment, Andrew Gear, HIE’s head of business growth in Shetland, said: “Covid19 has had a major impact on Seaspray’s business and the contracted suppliers. It led to a complete closure of their market from April to August. The hospitality market has gradually re-opened, but on a significantly smaller scale and is predicated to recover slowly.

“The company’s latest plans to change the way it packages and sells the local produce, will help them recover from the impacts of Covid19 and help grow the company. We are very pleased that the move will create new jobs and make a positive contribution to people living on Shetland and one of our key sectors.”

Gordon Johnson from Seaspray, added: “We are very pleased with the facility and the new packing line, which without the support of HIE could not have gone ahead. Not only will this create new jobs, but also provides a more secure position for the dozen or so employees of our suppliers. We look forward to a sustainable growth over coming years with the recognition of quality through a strong Shetland brand. I consider this phase one of our future development plan.”

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