Spanish Retailer, Mercadona, Appoint Castletownbere Co-op as International Whitefish Supplier following Food Safety and Responsibly Sourced Accreditations

John Nolan, Manager of Castletownbere Fishermen's Co-op, Paul Ward, BIM and Ismael Fogado, Mercadona

Group shot at Castletownbere pier

Mercadona, the major Spanish retailer, recently visited Castletownbere, Co. Cork to meet with Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, to view the successful processing business following its recognition of Grade A status for Food Safety from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and BIM’s Responsibly Sourced Standard for sustainable fishing and processing practices.

Group shot as featured in press release: Pictured at Castletownbere pier, Co. Cork are from left to right: Frank Fleming, Responsible Irish Fish; Mercadona delegation: Ismael Folgado, Lorena Torrecillas, Kostanca Katragjini, Margarita Muñoz, Juanma Unió y Montse Cuenca , Paul Ward, BIM and John Nolan, Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op Photograph: Niall Duffy.

As a result of these high standards and the relationship the two parties have built up over the years, Mercadona has identified the Co-op as their major international partner for the supply of whitefish. The agreement will result in the co-op supplying Meradona with an estimated 2,000 tonnes of fish.This contract will be of significant benefit to the local community with 36 onshore jobs already created in the co-op ensuring existing jobs are also supported on the fishing vessels.

Located at one of Ireland’s busiest fishing ports, Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op, a major local employer (80 full time employees) located on the beautiful Beara Peninsula has been a supplier of whitefish, pelagics and shellfish to leading Retail, Wholesale Foodservice and other businesses in Europe, Asia and Internationally, for decades. 

The Co-op supplies whitefish (monkfish and megrim) to Mercadona in specific packing formats, weights and grades required by the retailer. The Co-op has invested significant capital to bring the processing plant up to the required standard and invested in staff development and up-skilling. John Nolan, Managing Director, Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op explained; ‘We are delighted to have achieved BRC status and the BIM Responsibly Sourced Standard. The objective of our Co-op is to achieve the best return for our member’s vessels and to safe guard the employment that we create in the Beara peninsula. So this is a very important step for the future of the organization.  We are delighted to be able to give our customers the assurance of quality food safety and responsibility that the BRC and BIM RSS standards guarantee. An important factor in this development was the close support and opportunity offered from Mercadona, that lead to the Co-op becoming a major international supplier’

Developed by retailers and food service companies, BRC is a leading Global Standard that helps build confidence in the food production sector. BRC Global Standards are widely recognized throughout the world, with over 14,000 certificated suppliers in over 100 countries through a network of over 90 Accredited and BRC recognized Certification Bodies. The major business benefit of the BRC Global Standard is that by dealing with suppliers who have achieved BRC Certification, customers can be assured that they are dealing with a company that has reached the highest quality and food safety standards.

The BIM Responsibly Sourced Standard is becoming increasingly popular in the Irish catching and seafood processing sectors. The standard is based on responsible fishing practices and quality controls from the vessels right through the supply chain. Market research demonstrates that consumers want to purchase seafood that is responsibly caught and traceable and this standard enables businesses to confirm to their customers the providence and sustainability of their product.

In order to achieve BRC certification and the BIM Responsibly Sourced Standard (RSS), Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op, had to demonstrate that their facility met or exceeded the benchmark standards. An independent audit was conducted to verify compliance with the demanding standards set by the BRC and the RSS. The implementation of both standards was possible through the continued collaboration and support from BIM through structural funds, advisory services and the development of a strategic vision for the whitefish sector overall.

The Co-op started supplying to the Spanish retailer Mercadona, through their Retail Supply Unit, and the certifications assisted in securing this contract.

Ismael Folgado of Mercadona stated that; ‘the primary sector is a key point within the food industry and therefore  one of our responsibilities as a “Retailer” is to give support to  primary sectors pursuing a sustainable agro-food chain and adding value to the sector. We consider these collaborations are strategically essential nowadays. Castletownbere Fishermen’s Co-op has demonstrated an on-going improvement in all they do and as a result they have become our main supplier of monkfish and megrim. For us, it is important to see the Primary Sector “moving on”, achieving certifications in Food Safety, investing in its facilities, in traceability systems etc.  We have a good working relationship with Castletownbere Co-op and through this agreement we can continue to deliver a high quality product at the best price to our customers’

Castletownbere Co-op intend on using the two standards of BRC and the BIM Responsibly Sourced Standard as a platform to further develop and improve their position with the implementation of the BIM Green Seafood Business Programme to assist the Co-op achieve the Bord Bia Origin Green sustainability charter.