Tasting International Success
Edward Gallagher, director, irish Premium Oysters says his gigas oysters, raised in class-A bays on the northwest coast of Ireland, are very high quality and have a unique taste, which is delivering repeat customers
“Our oysters are mainly bought by consumers for the flavours. We have a river running adjacent to the oyster farm and it’s peaty water, which gives it a very unique taste. That is our biggest selling point. Some oysters have big meat, some oysters have beautiful shells, ours have a very unique taste. We don’t have extraordinarily large meat but you get a unique aftertaste. The consumers keep asking for our products. It’s the consumers who decide, rather than wholesalers. It ends up in four and five-star hotels, top-end restaurants.”
All product from Irish Premium Oysters is destined for export, with 99 per cent going to Asia.
“I am very unusual as an oyster farmer in Europe to say that I sell nothing in Europe, because the average oyster farm sells 90 per cent in Europe. We started exporting to Hong Kong and Taiwan in early 2000, and we have loyal customers in Hong Kong. From there we have moved to Malaysia, Japan, Dubai, Singapore, Thailand and China.”
Edward explains that product is packed twice a week, on Monday and Friday, arriving in Asia two days later.
“We own our own lorries so it is a sealed unit and are recognised as ‘known consigners’, which means our oysters go directly onto the plane. That cuts out a bit of time.”
Edward says Irish Premium Oysters is growing organically at 10-15 per cent per annum and is now exploring opportunities closer to home in Europe.
“That way we won’t be entirely reliant on Asia. We are looking at Italy because I have exported there in the past. There is always going to be a space for our product because it has a very unique taste. That is our biggest selling point.”
Edward prefers to work with one or two customers in each of his target markets.
“My target is to do 2,500-5,000 oysters a week into eight to 10 different markets rather than 10,000-30,000 oysters a week into one market. It’s quality over quantity.”
To maintain quality in production, Edward explains that the cold waters in the Donegal Bay slow down growth and allow the flavours to mature.
“We can do it quite naturally because in Donegal the water temperature is roughly 2OC colder than in the south of Ireland. So, we slow down the growth, which increases shelf life and the hardiness of the shell. It also increases the meat content.”
Irish Premium Oysters operates a modern facility in Donegal.
“We were one of the first in Ireland to put in an automatic grader back in 2007. I upgraded it in 2010 and upgraded it again last year.”
As a member of Bord Bia’s (the Irish Food Board) Origin Green programme the company is looking at ways to drive improvements, including packaging, electricity and water consumption. Edward believes this is an important element in sharing the industry’s story internationally.