Kilkeel firm nets £1m scampi boost and creates 33 new jobs
A seafood company in Co Down is celebrating a £1m investment in its business as it expands scampi supplies to its English parent firm.
Kilkeel Seafoods, which is based at the town's harbour, will also create 33 new jobs as part of the expansion. It currently employs 140 people.
The company processes wholetail scampi for supply to parent company Whitby Seafoods in North Yorkshire.
Invest NI is providing support of £99,000 through its Jobs Fund for the job-creation programme, which will unfold over the next two years.
Daniel Whittle, managing director of Kilkeel Seafoods – whose family founded Whitby Seafoods – said the investment followed some "strategic" decision-making.
They had decided to expand the scampi shelling and processing so that they could focus on customers in retail and catering.
The scampi is sourced from trawlers in the area, from southern Ireland and other parts of the UK before being processed in Kilkeel, which is Northern Ireland's main fishing port.
Mr Whittle said: "It's a tremendous endorsement in the consistently high quality of our products and also of the scampi from the North Channel and Irish Sea provided by our network of experienced suppliers.
"The investment being undertaken in our operations in Kilkeel positions us for faster growth within Whitby Seafoods as the group responds to the developing market demand for locally sourced food," he added.
John Hood, Invest NI food and tourism director, said Whitby's decision would strengthen the position of Kilkeel Seafoods in the group.
"It is being made because of the quality of products processed at the port from scampi sourced from local and Irish trawlers.
"The consolidation of scampi processing at Kilkeel is, therefore, a very important boost for the local fishing industry and the wider economy of the Co Down coastal region, the centre of a fish processing industry in Northern Ireland."
He said the Jobs Fund support would result in almost £500,000 in direct salaries and wages to the new workforce.
Mr Hood added: "This support is in line with our strategic focus on encouraging the industry to develop added value products that combine quality, provenance and safety for consumers."
Kilkeel Seafoods was formed in 2011 when Whitby acquired Rockall Seafoods, another Kilkeel scampi producer.
This followed Whitby's acquisition of Middleton Seafoods in Kilkeel in 2007, and made the new company the biggest shelling and processing company for wholetail scampi in the UK. Whitby is a family-run company employing 140 people in North Yorkshire.