Royal opening for Scotland's oldest independent seafood manufacturer – Fishupdate.com

Royal opening for Scotland’s oldest independent seafood manufacturer Published:  23 May, 2007

Richard Lochhead

SCOTLAND’S oldest independent seafood manufacturer will mark the start of a new era today when its new premises, which were rebuilt after a devastating fire, are officially opened by The Duke of York.

Managers and staff at Joseph Robertson, which dates back to 1892, fought to save the business after the blaze, caused as a result of a mechanical failure in December 2005, wiped out its production facilities in the Torry area of Aberdeen.

Thanks to the loyalty of its customers, hard work round the clock and determination not to lose the business, staff managed to get production up and running at other sites in Britain within two weeks of the fire.

Today, the fourth generation of Robertsons involved in the family business will celebrate as their new £6 million factory is officially reopened.

Simon Robertson said: “The last 16 months have been incredibly hard work, but everyone at the factory has pulled together and we are delighted by the fact our staff stayed with us throughout.

“We were just devastated to stand and watch as the factory burned, but pretty quickly we went into autopilot and started doing what it took to keep going.

“We were also lucky to have loyal customers who stayed with us and grateful for the support we’ve had from the Scottish Executive towards the new building and from Scottish Enterprise Grampian over the years.”

Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said: “Joseph Robertson is a name synonymous with quality in the fish processing industry and I am sure this facility will build on the company’s reputation for excellence.

“I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government was able to provide £1 million in assistance towards this development.”

Jennifer Craw, senior director of operations at Scottish Enterprise Grampian, said: “The fact that the Robertsons continued to build their business throughout this period is a testament to their hard work and determination.

“We’ve worked with them over the years in areas such as management and product development which has helped them to become the largest independent processor of fish products in Scotland and we look forward to that success continuing for years to come.

“They are an important part of the quality food and drink industry we have in Aberdeen City and Shire, which is renowned for excellent natural produce and an innovative approach to driving growth through new products and entering new markets.”

The company was started by Joseph Robertson in 1892, who bought fresh fish from the market at the harbour in Aberdeen and sold it onto clients and markets around Scotland.

Everything he sold was sourced in Aberdeen and even now 95% of the white fish used by the company is sourced from Scottish ports.

Ninety years later, the company started dealing with new products such as fish in breadcrumbs and started supplying the foodservice sector in Scotland.

In 1999, it invested more than £2 million in a new factory in Torry and kept developing and expanding its product line with fish-based recipes.

The rebuilt factory is on the same site, although internally a few changes have been made to provide more space, which can be used more efficiently.

While the company’s markets remain in foodservice, retail and export, it has recently moved more into the retail chilled market and secured contracts for Christmas lines with two major supermarkets.

Robertson said: “Our industry has faced some tough times and we have succeeded by concentrating on our market strategy and developing high-quality, value-added, profitable products.

“These have captured the imagination of consumers in all our market sectors and our plans are simpe – to continue to provide excellent products which clients stock, consumers buy and we keep making a profit and growing.”

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