A major investment, new farming techniques and partnership are set to significantly increase the export of the state’s mussels to South-East Asia and China.
Blue mussels from the Eyre Peninsula are highly regarded for their soft texture and sweet flavour. Eyre Peninsula Seafoods (EPS) was created in 2016 to represent three brands – Kinkawooka Shellfish, Boston Bay Mussels and Spencer Gulf Mussels – and has seen significant growth since its formation.
Its new multi-million-dollar production facility in Port Lincoln will allow the company to increase production from 2000 tonnes a year to 3500 tonnes, providing the volume required to push into the South-East Asian region, and potentially the US and Europe.
EPS executive director Andrew Puglisi said several new husbandry techniques used this year have resulted in the mussels gaining especially high glycogen levels. “This is the sweet body fat that is inherent in giving South Australian mussels their unique flavour and texture profile,” he said.
Its combined resources make EPS the largest mussel farming operation in Australia. It also provides the business scale and ability to create a best-in-class operation from the on water marine operations, land-based processing and in sales and marketing. For Puglisi, the goal is to have South Australia recognised as a “premium mussel appellation, which can be used across all markets”.
The company's growth could create 20 jobs in regional South Australia as well as increase demand for local resources, including packaging, freight, and fuel,” he said.
A crucial partner with the push into China is Thomas Cappo Seafoods, a market leader in Australian food distribution into the region. Partnering with Thomas Cappo means EPS can access the networks and relationships built up over many years, especially in China, Puglisi said.
Thomas Cappo Seadfoods principal, Damian Cappo is a third-generation fishmonger from Adelaide. “China, and in fact that whole region, is not only important in regard to volume of mussels they consume naturally in their food culture, but it’s a great platform into other markets too off the back of any success you might experience,” Cappo said.
“But anything into China is difficult because you’re competing globally, but it’s about getting on the ground and understanding the product, the requirements and matching with the correct customer channels and constantly massaging and educating so people understand the product and its value.
“The message of the provenance and quality of South Australian mussels is a huge selling point of difference,” he said.
It also creates an opportunity to move into Europe and the US in their mussel off season. “This could allow year-round supply of blue mussels to those markets,” Cappo said.
In an industry that is so fragile and so thin on margin, mergers like this one are crucial for a region's ability to meet growing international demand, meet the need to build and invest in technical innovations to improve efficiencies, as well as to increase the size of the team, he said.