Fresh seafood magic from Boulogne

Fresh seafood magic from Boulogne Alain Ducamp of Boulogne specialist producer Océan Délices, with the company’s ever-popular salmon roll roast

Océan Délices had a good year in 2017, expanding its range, extending its reach and working with new customers. Key fresh products are the salmon roll, tartare products and gravadlax produced in a variety of versions from dill to Szechuan pepper.

“Then there are things like sea bass tartare, and the specifically winter and summer products; brochettes for summer and tartare products are for May to August to go with seafood salads, as well as different summer products such as specially cut salmon escalopes that come on a barbecue-ready tray,” said managing director Alain Ducamp, who established the company in Boulogne and a few years ago relocated it to specially built premises in the newest area of the port’s Capecure seafood district.

“We’re also working with Grand Frais, which is an exciting retail chain that handles only fresh produce – meat, bread, cheese, and of course seafood. They’re also setting up in Boulogne with a processing plant,” he said.

“Innovation is very important to us. We are developing exciting new products with them – including a salmon tartare mojito, as well as different gravadlax products. They came to us with ideas and we developed seafood salads ideas for the summer. It’s a good partnership and it’s a very collaborative process,” he said.

As well as the French market, Océan Délices is active with exports of its almost exclusively fresh production. One of its very few frozen products is a fish sausage made for export to Hong Kong, an exception to the company’s preference in supplying fresh products.

“It gets complex with a small volume of frozen production,” he said, adding that there are exceptions – hence the Hong Kong fish sausage and a handful of other products.

“The Belgian market is interesting and they are always asking what we can do for them, and we can always discuss and come up with an interesting set of ideas. We have also made some ventures into the German market, but most of our business is in France and this is the best market in Europe.”

According to Alain Ducamp, the hypermarkets that have been a feature of the French retail business for decades may find that their day is over, unless they can concentrate on ways to maintain their identity.

“People no longer have the time to shop in hypermarkets, but there’s a future there if they think about it,” he said, commenting that the consumer market is changing.

“We’re not reacting to this. We’re part of it,” he said, adding that the fresh side of the seafood business is always difficult and he foresees a few tough years ahead for the fresh fish sector.

“Boulogne really needs to concentrate on imports of fish and needs to play its hand as the gateway for seafood from the north of Europe to the south. Boulogne is a hub, and needs to maintain its position as that transit  centre for seafood,” he said, commenting that Océan Délices is part of this, importing much of its raw material.

“We import a lot of salmon directly from Scotland and Norway – we buy 500 tonnes of salmon every year from Marine Harvest, plus we also source minced salmon locally. Our scallops come from South America, and that’s down to size and cost,” he said, explaining that the price of local scallops is too high for the company’s products and using such high-priced raw material would simply price them out of the market.

Océan Délices has also taken the plunge with recycling, anticipating the requirements that Alain Ducamp is certain will be in place sooner or later.

“No more polystyrene,” he said. “And all of our trays are now recyclable. This isn’t easy in France, as regions have different policies on what will or won’t be recycle. It’s not just the trays, the plastic film covering is also recyclable.”

“2017 was a good year for us and we’re growing, but not in staff,” he said. Océan Délices has adopted the lean method of working over the last two years, including taking on a lean engineer to manage the processes.

“It has helped us produce with minimum staffing levels. It’s something that changes all of your methods. We have abandoned all of the conveyor belts,” he said. “Staff move from finishing one job to another, or to another department, so it brings in a greater level of flexibility and you have the choice of being more productive or reducing staff. In fact, we haven’t cut the staff, but focused on increasing productivity. It’s all about using staff more intelligently.”

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