Sofrimar expands into new markets with help from Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme

Seafood processor Sofrimar will increase whelk exports and create 20 new jobs through the expansion of its Wexford facility with help from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme.

The Kilmore Quay business is one of 44 projects to share in a €26.8 million investment from the Seafood Processing Capital Support Scheme administered through BIM. The scheme, which will deliver up to €45 million in funding to the seafood processing sector, is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

The largest processor of whelk meat in Ireland, Sofrimar is investing €678,000 to create additional space in its factory which will allow it to meet an increased demand for frozen cooked whole whelks in Asia and Europe.

“At the moment, we send our cooked and raw whelk meat to Asia for further processing with cooked whelk meat canned in South Korea and sold locally,” Lorcan Barden, Finance Director.  “Our raw whelk meat is processed into sushi slices in China and sold in major sushi restaurant chains in Japan.

“This new line for frozen cooked whole whelks in our expanded facility will enable value adding to be completed in Ireland, maximising revenue from the whelks landed by Irish boats. We currently employ 140 people with a further 20 new jobs to be created in our coastal community.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sofrimar had exported its cooked whelk meat to South Korea where it was canned and then sold at bars as a popular pub dish with noodles. However, the closure of bars due to restrictions led to reduced demand for this product, with the company pivoting to increasing production of frozen cooked whole whelks which proved hugely popular.

“This new automated line for the packing of frozen cooked whole whelks and other products in retail packs will be capable of producing circa 15,000 kg per day, said Lorcan.

“The grant aid from the Seafood Processing Capital Support Scheme has allowed us to diversify our sales of whelk products which secures the future of our whelk fishermen, increase the value added from our landings, continue our export growth strategy in new and existing markets.”

Following completion of the expansion in July, the company will have an additional 500 sq. metre of processing facilities to meet demand for more than 1,000 metric tonnes of frozen cooked whole whelks per year with a significant proportion to be packed in small retail packs.

It will include a new area for grading and washing of whole whelks before cooking and an automated packing line for retail packs. Efficiency gains in the production process will also result in reduced energy consumption.

Founded in 1979 in Kilmore Quay, Sofrimar started to process whelk for the Far East market in 1991 and continues to sell this product to several markets.