Award-winning Galway seafood business to “mussel” in on growing shellfish market, with support from BIM
For more than seven decades the Kelly family has been successfully farming delicious, top quality oysters, mussels and shellfish in the crystal-clear waters of Galway Bay.
The family is proud that its sustainably farmed shellfish, including oysters, grace the tables of some of the finest restaurants and hotels in Ireland and around the world.
Now Kelly Oysters – based in beautiful Kilcolgan, in Dunbulcaun Bay – are embarking on an exciting new chapter following a €172,000 investment which will see the business add value and expand sales of mussels. €74,844 of the investment has come from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, implemented by BIM.
The scheme, which will deliver up to €45 million in funding to the Irish seafood processing sector, is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. It was recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.
According to Diarmuid Kelly, one of two brothers who run the business, the investment will help Kelly Oysters become more consumer focused by allowing for small sized packs of mussels suitable for home preparations to hit the market. He sees this as opening the doors for new sales channels at home and abroad.
At present the live mussels produced by the Kelly’s are mainly packed in 10kg to 15 kg bags for the food service and wholesale market. But they are not suitable for retail sales.
Said Diarmuid Kelly: “We noticed an increase in demand from fish wholesalers for smaller sized packaging during the Covid-19 pandemic and this trend has remained. Market research is telling us that consumers are looking for produce that is semi prepared and ready to cook. Our new smaller 1kg packaging is an opportunity to drive increased sales into retail, and direct to consumer channels.”
Traditionally, handier 1kg net bags of mussels have been produced by hand, something which was very labour intensive. But thanks to the recent investment, supported by BIM, Kelly Oysters has introduced a product line that will prepare, weigh, pack and label 1kg bags of mussels that are fully traceable from farm to fork.
“Our investment will add huge value to our existing produce,” said Diarmuid Kelly. “From existing inquiries, we estimate a demand of 20 tonnes of 1kg packs of mussels per annum, growing to 50 tonnes over three years. We are very excited about the new chapter and the prospect of welcoming new generations of shellfish lovers to our product.”
Kelly Oysters was first set up by Diarmuid’s father, Michael, in 1952. At that stage there was only a wild stock of oysters on the west coast, and no oyster farming. “My grandfather, who was also called Michael, was an oyster dredger and he would dredge wild oysters from the bottom of the sea from a fishing boat. It was my father Michael who formally set up the business and started selling oysters to restaurants.”
The passion and love for the business was passed down to sons Diarmuid and Micheal. But pivotal also to the business are their wives Mary (married to Micheal) and Theresa (married to Diarmuid) who work full time in the business. In addition, Micheals, son Michael junior, is on the staff of ten.
Said Diarmuid: “Where we are now is very much due to the hard work and dedication that our entire team put in every day.
The Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme has been a huge help to us, and was the incentive for us to introduce our new product line which will help us become more efficient and to reach new customers.”
He said the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit created several challenges for the business with significant disruption to sales.
“We realised to meet the economic and future needs of this family business a new strategy was required which included adding value to existing products, and which did not rely solely on the existing wholesale food service market.”
Currently Kelly Oysters sell approximately 30 per cent of its product abroad, and 70 per cent to the domestic market. It exports oysters to 14 countries around the world including Canada and Singapore.
According to Diarmuid mussels are one of the greatest fish on the market, and represent good value.
Kelly Oysters recently won a prestigious Euro-Toques Food Award for its outstanding Blue Rope Mussels, and for its contribution to regenerative aquaculture in Ireland. “We were so proud to win this award. It is recognition of the work we put into producing the finest shellfish possible.”