Thursday 18 July 2019

International demand for smoking hot fish shop

David Looby

BUSINESS IS smoking at Ronan's Fish Shop on Wexford Street, New Ross, as it celebrates 40 years providing fish to customers in the southern half of the county.

The family fish shop, where Duncannon Smokehouse is located, was established by the late Frank Ronan Snr who first opened the retail outlet on Wexford Street in 1974.

Since then, the traditional fish shop has built an unrivalled reputation for offering the freshest and most flavoursome locally-sourced fish and is now selling smoked fish to customers as far away as Singapore.

Its smoked salmon is available to buy in 20 specialist food shops in France and owner Kai Ronan says business is up fourfold on this time last year.

In August, Duncannon Smokehouse netted two major Great Taste awards, including a triple gold star award for its smoked haddock.

Since then business has grown rapidly, leading Kai to make some part-time staff full time to meet demand.

Achieving Great Taste awards for the second year running has put the New Ross business to the forefront of Irish smokehouses.

All this didn't happen by accident, and the appointment of Kai's wife Lee to a marketing position in the business in 2011 has helped to expand the business into new and exciting markets.

A Duncannon Smokehouse website was established in 2012 and New Ross company ensured that whenever smoked salmon was searched on Google in Ireland, Duncannon Smokehouse came up first.

Kai said the business established by his father was initially a wholesalers, but is now a fishmongers selling fresh fish to the people of New Ross. He said the smokehouse side of the business was always there but it has developed exponentially over the past year, while demand from restaurants is also growing.

He said he and everyone at Duncannon Smoklehouse were pleasantly surprised when they won the three star Great Taste award as they only entered the smoked haddock 'as an afterthought'.

'Only 150 out of 10,000 entries won a triple star award. All the markets are quite flooded with smoked fish but Ireland has a great name for it,' Kai added.

He attributes the growing popularity of fish to the tv chef phenomenon, saying fish is now on people's screens more than ever before.

Lee has brought the business to new markets, including France and she says the ambition is to corner the Irish smoked salmon market.

The business has changed with the times; it once provided fish to all the Supervalu outlets in the South East until the company centralised distribution. When this happened it was decided to focus more on the shop and the smokehouse.

Lee said Bord Bia provided her with excellent advice when she started marketing the business.

'We did a lot of work with Facebook and on Google and business has double year on year since 2011.'

Orders came in every day in the run up to Christmas from across Europe and as far away as Dubai and Singapore meaning the business's five staff were filleting and packaging around the clock.

The Ronan's use UPS to deliver their smoked trout, haddock and salmon and deliveries of the fish cost as little as €5 in Ireland, €20 to Europe and run to about €35 to further afield.

Kai said: 'Most of the orders are private but we've started getting corporate orders which had died a death for six or seven years. They find us through our website and place orders. Two of the corporate orders were for wild salmon and we've noticed people are willing to spend on good quality smoked fish.'

Lee said: 'People are happy enough to spend more money on food and people realise that fish is good for you and that the fishmonger is cheapest. Kids are starting to eat a lot more fish too and some people are eating it three or four times a week.'

Duncannon Smokehouse has begun 2014 with a very complimentary mention in the John & Sally McKenna Guide where it is listed as one of the best places to shop in the county.

The guide praises the 'classy confidence' of everything from the new packaging to the produce of the Duncannon Smokehouse award winning produce.

'The packaging and graphics are superlative, the sourcing is meticulous, and the flavours are subtle, with the use of smoke deftly controlled to give the fish a blessing of smoke rather than a blanket of smoke. It's no surprise that the Great Taste Awards have been coming their way,' the guide reviewer states.

Enniscorthy Guardian