Birgitta Curtin of The Burren Smokehouse with some of the company's smoked salmon.

Outlook is sunny for Irish salmon smoker

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An artisan salmon smoker in Ireland has been able to invest in new machinery and solar panels thanks to a fund designed to help EU countries cope with the ripple effects of the UK’s departure from the Union.

The Burren Smokehouse in County Clare is ready to scale up following the €171,000 (£147,000) investment, which included a €76,900 grant from Ireland’s seafood development agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) under the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme.

The BIM-administered scheme is funded by the European Union from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, which is providing up to €5.4 billion to help EU member states affected by Brexit.

Visitor centre

The Burren Smokehouse was established in 1989 by husband-and-wife Peter and Birgitta Curtin. Peter was born in Lisdoonvarna, Co, Clare, and spent many years in the Merchant Navy. Birgitta was born and raised in Nyköping on Sweden’s Baltic Sea coast and met her future husband on a trip to Ireland.

In 1995 the couple added The Burren Smokehouse Taste the Atlantic Irish Salmon Visitor Experience, showcasing the traditional art and craft of smoking salmon and attracting around 40,000 people each year. It is not just a huge tourist draw, but an important sales pipeline as 85% of their online customers would have visited the Burren Smokehouse prior to purchase.

The business, which uses a patented smoking technique developed by Peter, had a challenging time due to Covid-19 and Brexit but is now going from strength to strength, reports BIM.

Birgitta Curtin: "The grant aid has allowed us to invest, be more sustainable and to take opportunities to improve standards and reduce costs which is critical for an SME like us."

Today the smokehouse produces cold and hot smoked salmon sold with a variety of award-winning marinades including seaweed, honey lemon dill and honey lemon pepper marinade. It also produces smoked mackerel and smoked eel.

Individual packages of salmon and other products can be ordered online and delivered overnight around the world. “The product lends itself to overseas deliver really well because it’s vacuum-packed and not heavy,” Birgitta said.

The recent investment has enhanced the business’s efficiency and digital capability and reduced its environmental impact.

“The grant aid has allowed us to invest, be more sustainable and to take opportunities to improve standards and reduce costs which is critical for an SME like us,” said Birgitta.

Lower bills

New digital equipment, including a digital control panel for the fish smoker, has made processing easier for staff to manage, allowing for scannable stocktaking and integration of website orders.

“The grant aid really pushed us to take opportunities to make improvements that we otherwise might have held back on,” said Birgitta. “Businesses like ours need to innovate on a continuous basis, but we also need to watch every cent. The funding from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve meant we were able to take opportunities to futureproof our business, and keep efficiencies high, which is essential in an environment where costs are rising.

“Our energy bills have been reduced and we are playing our part in reducing our carbon footprint. This investment has helped us see the light again after the impact of Brexit and Covid-19.”

The Burren Smokehouse has 18 year-round employees and employs casual staff during periods of high demand.