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Article appeared in issue 4, 2020

Ready to go

Morgan’s Fine Fish isn't afraid to pivot, even in these challenging times. Customer intelligence helped to inform their new direction.

Morgan’s Fine Fish recently launched its first ready-to-cook retail range onto the Irish market to cater, it says, for the ever-growing demand for quick, easy-to-cook, healthy meals for people on the go. Gillian Morgan, R&D product developer at Morgan’s Fine Fish explains: “From the outset, we wanted to develop an authentic and exciting seafood product with 'clean label' ingredients. We wanted to make it easier for customers, who may not have the time to prepare and cook fish, to enjoy a nutritious seafood meal in minutes.”

The company partnered with weight loss expert Karen Daly of The Academy Masterplan to create the range which includes three options – Katsu Fish Curry, Caribbean Prawns and Spicy Lemongrass and Lime Seafood – and drew on Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) insights around shopper intelligence focused on behaviour during Covid-19 to inform its new product development. “Seafood is our business and has been for 160 years. We drew from our extensive experience, and consumer market research from Bord Bia to develop a range that is a natural source of high protein, low in fat, has no artificial additives or flavourings and most importantly, tastes delicious.”

With Covid-19 sharpening our focus on our health and wellbeing, the new range is delivering on a number of levels, she says, as people look for ways to boost or support their immune system.“Many of us want to make healthier choices when we shop but it can be confusing and we are juggling so much, it can be hard to find the time to cook from scratch. We knew we were facing a challenge launching a new product range in these difficult times but with sales steady, it shows the demand is there for meal options that deliver in terms of taste, nutrition and convenience.”

As one of Ireland’s longest-established family seafood businesses, challenges are part and parcel of daily life. Morgan’s Fine Fish has been based in Omeath, Co. Louth since 1860 and is now the biggest employer in the Cooley peninsula, with 80 employees from north and south of the border. Last year, it won the BIM Seafood Innovation Award at the Blas Na hÉireann Awards.

As one of the top three seafood processors in Ireland, it supplies major retailers and foodservice companies in the country and has a successful export business supplying retailers with pre-packed salmon, hake, cod and smoked fish fillets under the Morgan’s Fine Fish brand to the Middle East, Northern Ireland, the UK and Singapore. There are plans to launch the ready-to-cook range in Northern Ireland and the UK once domestic sales are established.

The export side of their business is a growth area, as Brian McCullagh, managing director of Morgan’s Fine Fish explains: “We have been exporting quality fish for the last three years, so it is a relatively new venture for us. We have received invaluable support from Bord Bia, both financial and advisory, in terms of researching new markets and meeting the right contacts on the ground. As we all face the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, we are fully aware of the need to continuously pivot to find new ways to meet the ever-growing global demand for seafood. A key component of our success has been targeted investment in the best technology to drive innovation and a focus on sustainable sourcing and processing.”

Morgan’s Fine Fish processing factory, he says, operates to the highest sustainability practices in terms of energy, water and waste usage. The company is a member of Origin Green – the national sustainability programme for the Irish food and drink industry and is BRC AA* Grade. When it comes to sourcing, Morgan’s Fine Fish only use sustainable fisheries – Marine Stewardship Council and Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPS) in Ireland. FIPS are coordinated by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and provide a platform for fishermen, seafood buyers and suppliers to develop a strategy to improve a fishery by considering better policies and management over a given time period. Brian details how involvement in FIPS delivers for their business, their consumers and the environment: “Through our engagement in FIPS, we can work closely with producers to access markets which demand sustainability and environmental credentials and, in doing so, we can protect the future viability of fisheries and provide clear measurement and year-end results to our customers.”

Sustainability was also a priority in developing the new range of ready-to-cook meals and several packaging options were assessed to find one that retains the freshness of the fish and ingredients while also protecting the environment. The ‘evolve’ trays, made of recyclable materials, provided the perfect solution and can be reused again and again. Vegetables are sourced locally, from Country Fresh in Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Morgan’s Seafood Kitchen is currently available in select Dunnes Stores, select SuperValu stores, independent stores and from Morgan’s Fish Shop in Omeath.