Moving with the rising tide of innovation The drive to improve the quality of catches is being matched by efforts to improve traceability and innovative NPD says Nicki Holmyard The major processors, led by pressure from retailers, are demanding better quality and traceability from locally landed fish stocks. A major initiative by Seafood Scotland aims to improve the quality of fish landed and to promote and develop markets. Pilot quality schemes have been developed for vessels that set new standards and encourage fishermen to ensure their catch is expertly handled, weighed, stored and recorded. These have received strong support from the processing sector. "The industry should have started an initiative like this 10 years ago," says Stuart Cumming, operations manager of Cavaghan and Gray Seafoods in Aberdeen, which specialises in own label. "It's not going to be easy with fish in short supply, but the fishermen need to put more emphasis into looking after their catch to ensure better returns." Three major Scottish processors have signed up to a new project that takes supplies direct from vessels flying the Quality Flag for processing and supply to multiples. Jon Harman, CEO of Seafood Scotland, says: "We are eager to talk to any retail group keen to exploit special schemes for quality Scottish fish." Aquaculture has taken some flak lately so Aquascot, one of the country's biggest fish producers, has reacted by developing a total supply chain strategy guaranteeing control over every stage of production. MD Nick Meakin says: "This strategy has found favour with a number of UK and European multiples." The company is a specialist producer of conventionally grown and organic salmon, seagrown rainbow trout and turbot. It is also the first company in the UK to produce cod to commercial size and is involved in a national project to raise haddock in aquaculture. Another project aims to introduce subtle differences to the feed or habitat of farmed salmon to produce fish that meet the requirements of individual customers. Scottish Quality Salmon represents almost 70% of Scottish farmed salmon and has overhauled production standards to ensure farming methods are sustainable, accountable, environmentally acceptable, and undertaken to high standards. Chairman Lord Lindsay says: "Retailers and consumers recognise that our Tartan Quality Mark denotes a fish that has been rigorously inspected at every stage of production, and is fully traceable." SQS is organising instore promotions for the autumn with two major multiples. Shetland Seafood Quality Control operates a European accredited scheme for the islands' salmon farmers and processors and its Quality Mark is applied only to superior graded Shetland farmed salmon. It is also developing standards for sea trout, shellfish and white fish. The Shetland Smokehouse appreciates the quality of SSQC-labelled salmon used for its new coeur de filet' smoked salmon. Loch Duart, the Sustainable Salmon Company', was a first-time exhibitor at the European Seafood Exhibition in Brussels this year and noted considerable interest from UK and European processors and retailers. And Loch Fyne Oysters heavily promotes sustainable fisheries and low density aquaculture. Guy Denon, chief fish buyer for Belgian chain Delhaize, is a frequent visitor to Scotland and has a close working relationship with several suppliers from fisheries and fish farms. "We are increasingly interested in aquaculture products because they are not subject to the same supply problems as wild-caught fish," he says. Sustainable supplies are also promoted by leading langoustine processor Sco-Fro Foods, whose brands include Sea Spray and Galloway. Its premium whole langoustines and whole tail scampi are creel fished off the north-west coast to avoid damage to the seabed and only adult prawns are captured. The Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group supplies fresh mussels, scallops and oysters to the multiples and has developed a range of added value products and shellfish-in-sauce dishes. CEO Phil Marshall says shellfish grown by his members feed naturally on plankton in the sea and are totally sustainable. Joseph Robertson of Aberdeen specialises in high quality Scottish fish products and recently acquired Swankies Food Products, which has excellent distribution in the multiples. The company has redeveloped the Swankies brand and is launching new packaging and coating systems for its Scottish haddock, whiting, lemon sole, plaice and herring range. {{Z SUPPLEMENTS }}