The Scottish salmon industry is working to restore its image for superb quality following the ISA scare and is also adding value with organics, innovation, and convenience says Nicky Holmyard Over the past few years the Scottish salmon industry has weathered major crises over pricing structures, Norwegian dumping', disease and environmental issues. It has now emerged with a determination to leave problems behind, to "clean up its act" and to portray a genuine quality image to the consumer. As a result, farmers are currently enjoying a buoyant market and an upturn in prices, a welcome change following 18 months of production problems resulting from the outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anaemia, which saw prices at their lowest for many years. ISA was first detected in Scotland in May 1998 and although around 100 farms were subject to quarantine restrictions, only 11 sites were confirmed with ISA and all affected salmon were eradicated. The disease caused the industry to rethink the way in which salmon farming is carried out and a number of improvements in hygiene and husbandry techniques were implemented. The measures appear to have worked, as there have been no outbreaks recorded since May 1999. The industry body Scottish Quality Salmon (SQS) has now developed an Environmental Management System for farms as part of its Sustainable Development Strategy for the industry. According to chairman Lord Jamie Lindsay, growth of the industry in a sustainable fashion is seen as vital if it is to contribute towards the estimated additional 30 million tonnes of fish that will be required as food by 2010. In 1999 Scottish producers harvested 120,000 tonnes and it is anticipated that a similar harvest will result in 2000. SQS has a long-term focus to establish its members' salmon as the premium branded salmon in the UK and is committed to working with UK retailers who support this idea. To achieve its aim, SQS plans to revamp its Tartan Quality Mark to become the Scottish Quality Salmon sign and to implement a campaign to raise consumer awareness of quality salmon. "We want people to ask and look for SQS salmon and are working with our producers to ensure that the consumer is guaranteed 100 percent quality," explains marketing director Mike Lloyd. An instore fish counter campaign in August in two leading UK multiples concentrated on the fresh, quality image of Scotland and Scottish salmon. Similar campaigns are in the planning stage for retailers displaying fresh and smoked product in chill cabinets. The campaigns are being backed by high profile PR and advertising activity and the establishment of an SQS web based club. While all sectors strive to produce fish to ever higher standards, several companies have turned to organic production, which demands even stricter attention to the siting of fish pens, stocking densities, husbandry practices, diet and harvesting procedures. In the UK organic standards are produced and monitored by the Soil Association. The Orkney Isles currently boast the only certified organic salmon farms in the UK, with Aquascot and the Orkney Salmon Company registered as organic processors. At the Orkney Salmon Company, organic throughput has risen to 40% of production, which md Kirsty McCallum aims to forward sell. She explained that much of the salmon is filleted, with fillet portions prepared exclusively for Sainsbury. In selling its new product, her sales team have found it necessary to educate buyers about the differences between conventionally raised and organic fish. "Organic salmon is not and cannot be a commodity because it is more expensive to produce and therefore must retain its premium," says McCallum. With consumers demanding an ever increasing choice of value-added salmon products, processors have risen well to the challenge, producing everything from barbecue portions to party food to complete meals. "Innovation is the key to success in the seafood business," states James Campbell, a director of Glasgow based Sco-Fro Foods, which recently expanded its frozen So Special' range to incorporate a selection of salmon and seafood appetisers, starters, à la carte dishes and luxury party foods. Strathaird Salmon is also known for its innovative thinking in product development, which was responsible for the launch of 15 new salmon products last year and a fresh new look for its packaging. "We have gone for the health and convenience angle with just a dash of luxury and aimed the range at a younger consumer," explains marketing manager Rhona Forbes. The company's honey roast salmon which is lightly smoked then oven roasted, has been a particular success, appealing to people who normally avoid fish. Soon after its launch, the product won a gold medal in the Great Taste Awards run by the Guild of Fine Food Retailers in the UK. Latest from the development kitchen is a two-portion pack of lightly smoked salmon that requires a short cooking time at home. Currently available in Sainsbury, this product is selling beyond expectations. Strathaird is now concentrating on a new range of upmarket appetisers and party food for the Christmas season and is developing a new line in fridge and consumer-friendly packaging for its smoked salmon packs. Scotland's largest fish canning factory, International Fish Canners, launched a Scofish Luxury Scottish Salmon range of products this year. These include salmon in a creamy malt whisky sauce, salmon in a creamy honey mustard sauce, and premium grade skinless, boneless Atlantic salmon. According to sales manager Philip Andrade, the new salmon range is already listed in two UK multiples. ScotTrout and Salmon has seen retail demand for prepacked salmon portions, fillets and steaks increase considerably over the past year. "Today's consumer looks for quick, easy meal options, which is what we offer," says marketing director Jim Gourley. In Shetland, Whalsay Fish has successfully diversified into salmon processing from white fish processing and recently launched a value added range of vacuum packed skinless, boneless portions incorporating a sauce. Two Meal in Minutes' versions are currently available ­ salmon in pink peppercorn sauce and salmon in ginger and spring onion sauce, which has a distinctive oriental flavour. Shetland Smokehouse has introduced a fresh and smoked salmon brochette, a half side of peppered oven baked smoked salmon and a 500g mini side of smoked salmon for both catering and retail trade to complement its range of hot and cold smoked salmon. With salmon available in such a wide variety of shapes and forms it is becoming the fish of choice for many households. {{SUPPLEMENTS }}