Fresh on time

Blue Water Products in Wharf Street, Dunedin is a small company with a big attitude.

In the late 1980s, while just about everyone else in the fishing industry was seeing the export market as the marketing goal, Ross Hutchison, a former fisheries officer with the (then) Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, saw there was a market for high quality fish and fish products in New Zealand. He formed Blue Water Products Limited and set up a fish processing plant near the Dunedin seafront.

Hutchison negotiated with a number of fishing companies he had known through his previous employment and arranged a wide range of suppliers, from Waikawa at the bottom of the South Island to Careys Bay, just north of Dunedin. He then canvassed buyers with the promise of top quality fresh fish.

The company has since concentrated on the processing and marketing of a wide variety of fish to retail outlets such as supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. It has also opened up a small export market in Australia, but this accounts for only around five percent of processed product.

Today, Hutchison is working chairman of the Blue Water Products board of directors. His son Sam is general manager of the company. A commerce graduate from the University of Otago, Sam has been involved with the business since his school days.

He says the company has a strong marketing plan and concentrates on adding value to product. The 12 staff members at the plant are all highly skilled and apply Blue Water Products’ stringent quality controls under an overall quality control supervisor.

Sam Hutchison says this is important in any branch of the food industry and particularly in the handling and distribution of fish, in a rapid processing regime such as Blue Waters Products’. He also points out that the company was one of the first in the industry to compile, introduce and register a risk management plan.

At present the company is supplying fish to supermarkets from Christchurch as far south as Invercargill. According to Sam Hutchison, it supplies supermarkets allied to Progressive Enterprises Limited and Foodstuffs (South Island) Limited, as well as to restaurants and cafes.

To these customers, Blue Water Products supplies, among others, whole fish and fillets of blue cod, groper, haupuka, terakihi and flounders.

He says there is also a growing Auckland market for South Island fish. There is a northern perception that the fish from the colder southern waters keep fresher and have more flavour than those from warmer waters.

Adding value

Recently Sam has been concentrating in "adding value". To this end, the plant has been stuffing sole fillets with salmon pieces and seasoning. These have become very popular in supermarkets and with cafes and restaurants.

Blue Water Products’ sales manager is Marc Buissink. He is a former chef and knows what the hospitality industry wants. Buissink says southern diners are conservative and prefer blue cod, a fish species they know. Further north there is a steady demand for snapper, blue nose, gurnard and other species.

This demand for a variety of fish is also found in the highly competitive Queenstown market. He says restaurants and cafes in the resort are very selective in their fish purchases.

As marketing manager, Buissink is keen to make customers aware that Blue Water Products is not just blue cod, but also crayfish, tuna, scallops and Bluff oysters. He also predicted a market in southern cafes and restaurants for quality smallgoods.

As a result, Blue Water Products supplies pork products, salamis, cheeses, pestos and oils and other similar smallgoods from quality sources both locally and overseas.

Buissink says these have been received enthusiastically throughout the South, particularly in the smaller towns where chefs have limited access to specialised smallgoods.

Both Hutchison and Buissink believe the future of the company lies in its present marketing plan of supplying fresh quality food at a price that is reasonable.

They are proud of the reputation the company has earned for supplying fresh quality product and always at the stipulated delivery time.

Publishing Information
Magazine Issue 
NZBusiness March 2006