Gerard Freil, right, presents the export award to SSC sales director Su Cox, as event host Jay Rayner looks on. Photo: Callum Mackay.

Triple triumph for Scottish Salmon Company

The Scottish Salmon Company has scooped three awards success at this year's Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards.

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Edinburgh-based SSC won the Export Award, the Innovation Award and the New Food Product Award at the event held at the Kingsmill Hotel, Inverness.

The New Product Award was for its Native Hebridean Salmon, while the Innovation Award rewarded innovation in terms of business growth. It looked at innovation in the work place, working practices, procurement, developing skills, reducing carbon foot prints, reducing inequality and service innovation, all now seen as areas where real impact can be achieved. The award looked at entrants who demonstrated product research, overcome a technical challenge and/or development in the food supply chain eg developing new ingredients to cut waste or improved yield.

Fellow salmon farmer Loch Duart was highly commended in the Export Award, and Wester Ross Fisheries was a finalist in the Innovation Award.

North American sales up four-fold

SSC's sales to North America and the rest of the world increased significantly in the first half of 2017, with sales to North America rising four-fold and sales to the rest of the world increasing seven-fold compared to the first half of 2016. Sales to overseas markets represented 52 per cent of total sales, compared to 42 per cent in the half half of 2016.

Iain MacRury: Two awards are "a great team achievement". Photo: Salar Salmon.

In a bumper night for seafood, South Uist salmon smoker Salar Smokehouse won the New Business Award, and its employee Donald MacLachlan was named Young Shining Star.

Owner Iain MacRury missed Friday's awards ceremony because he was on holiday and joked: "I've decided I'm no longer going to any awards ceremony myself. I'm going to send the staff because they seem to do better. The company itself has won numerous awards since 1987, but since we took over in 2015 we've been nominated and finalists in a lot of awards, we've been runners-up in quite a few categories, but this is the first time we've actually won an award so it feels really good and special.

"[To win two awards] within two years of the business starting is fantastic, a great team achievement."

Previous owner Loch Duart closed the business in April 2015, and there was a three-month gap before MacRury, the former production manager, was able to complete the purchase of the smokery and restart production under the original Salmar brand which hadn't been used for eight years.

Back to basics

"We went back to basics and started again," said MacRury. He said that although he and the other nine people who work at the plant were knowledgeable about production when they started, they were novices when it came to business.

He said employing two professional sales people on the mainland had helped boost business. "We are getting the sales and we are hopefully getting new contracts out of these awards and nominations, and getting our name back out there is a very important thing. The fact that the brand is back now, and that people recognise that brand still, is tremendous."

Young Shining Star award winner Donald MacLachlan joined the company after leaving school and, having just turned 19 last week, is already head smoker and trainee production manager.

Perfect eye for detail

MacRury said: "Donald is a master of all trades, as the rest of the staff here are; everyone has to jump in wherever required and Donald exceeds his requirements. He is involved everywhere, he's very versatile.

"His role is very important. His eye for detail is perfect; the quality he produces is brilliant, and it was only just that we should put him forward for that award."

MacRury added MacLachlan's award could also draw the attention of young people on the islands - many of whom leave for the mainland - that there are opportunities at home.

Another fish-based company, Inverness-based Fishbox, a seafood subscription service that delivers fresh, sustainable fish and shellfish direct to customers, won the Healthier Food and Drink Award.