Family owned East Cork seafood business investing in the future, with support from BIM

Adrian and Diane Walsh and son of Ballycotton Seafood.
Pic: Diane Cusack


It’s not every day that a butcher switches careers to become a fishmonger! But that is exactly what East Cork native, Adrian Walsh, did about 25 years ago– and he hasn’t looked back since.


Adrian and his wife Diane are the driving force behind Ballycotton Seafood, a family-owned fish and seafood business which is renowned in East Cork and beyond for its fresh fish and tasty range of ready-to-make meals carefully prepared every day by two full-time chefs.


Ballycotton Seafood was started by Adrian’s parents, Richard and Mary Walsh, in 1985. Now retired, they prided themselves on developing the business based on using the freshest fish landed in Ballycotton and around the south coast.


Over the years Ballycotton Seafood has expanded and invested to offer not just a huge range of fresh fish and shellfish, but premium smoked fish and a wide range of popular delicious ready-to-eat meals.


Ballycotton Seafood is now about to embark on a €1.1 million investment supported by a €300,000 grant under the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.


Implemented by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the scheme which is now closed is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.


According to Adrian the investment will add a more efficient automation system, upgrade fish processing equipment, improve traceability and expand the smoked salmon operations.


“Having improved processing capabilities and production capacity will help us move up the value chain and add value to fish through filleting, cooking, freezing and smoking. The investment in automation and processing is vital and will ensure more efficiencies and a streamlining of our operations.” he said.


Ballycotton Seafood employs more than 40 people who work across processing, the smokehouse, food preparation and in its three shops in Garryvoe, Midleton and the English Market in Cork City.


Two chefs work daily in the large commercial kitchen preparing a range of 25 ready-to-eat meals including chowders, seafood pies, sauces, crab, garlic mussels and breaded seafood.


“We use traditional cooking techniques and only natural ingredients sourced locally when making these products.  We cook on a daily basis for our shops and you cannot get fresher than that,” said Adrian. “Since the end of the pandemic there has been a huge increase in demand for our ready-to-eat foods. People are busy and want convenience, but they still want quality and the freshest ingredients.”


He said: “We had a healthy export business to the UK which was heavily impacted following Brexit. That was a very tough time and we had to look at different markets. We ramped up sales in Ireland and we are also doing exports to France.”


“We rely on the loyalty and support of our customers and offer the best fish, seafood and service we can. Staff in Ballycotton Seafood shops take the time to discuss the fish and seafood on offer daily. They will help and give advice if needed when selecting fish and will fillet and prepare the fish and share cooking and preparation tips based on knowledge and experience gained over time.”


This is very much a family business. Adrian’s wife, Diane, joined before Adrian did. “When Diane was my girlfriend, she was asked to help out in one of the shops one weekend – and she never left!”


Their son Kieran is now working in the business and will eventually take it over. “We are delighted that it will be handed down to the third generation,” said Adrian.


Adrian worked for more than ten years as a butcher, doing his apprenticeship in Midleton and then working in Carrigtwohill. He admits it might seem strange that he took this path, given the family business. “But I was always helping out at home from when I was very young, and when I joined I did have an advantage as I was already able to use a knife!” he joked.