The owner of Dunkeld Smoked Salmon has business expansion in the years ahead very much on his mind.
Mike Smith, who took over the firm in July 2018, would like to add to his team while continuing to diversify the venture.
And, if the maths stack up, he may also look for a new site to meet the company’s growing requirements.
It was 1978 when Dunkeld Smoked Salmon was founded by Major Jamie O’Connor to provide anglers on the Tay with a service to smoke their own rod-caught salmon.
Mike said the firm had been busy when salmon were plentiful, but later went through mixed fortunes undoubtedly connected to the plummet in wild fish stocks.
Raised in the town, the businessman spent 17 years working in London in the finance sector before returning north full-time in 2019.
Mike is full of praise for Dunkeld – which has a historic cathedral and is frequently described as the “gateway to the Highlands”.
He explained: “It is a wonderful village and brand that helps when marketing.
“With considerable investment from business owners the village really has something for everyone which helps with customer footfall.”
Clients include royalty and famous chefs
Dunkeld Smoked Salmon now has a team of seven including those at its retail outlet, Dunkeld Fine Foods.
Mike said the firm’s current weekly output of smoked salmon is seasonal, but can be as much as one tonne a week.
He added: “We use three different suppliers to reduce supply-chain risk – for example, storms can impact certain suppliers based on location.
“We bring in Grade A Scottish salmon trimmed fillets only.
“We supply not just local hotels that pride themselves in being locally sourced, but also some of the leading luxury hotels across Scotland.
“An important market for us is London. We supply restaurants there directly and also through a wholesale partnership.
“We dispatch to retail customers across the UK. In the past, we sent a reasonable amount into Europe.
“Unfortunately the paperwork makes it too risky for perishable goods.”
Mike said the long list of customers includes household-name chefs, sportspeople, TV personalities and occasionally even royalty.
So what makes the firm stand out from other smoked-salmon producers?
Mike answered: “It has to be the product – being dry cured only, whilst many use a sugar mix.
“Other factors would be the reputation of my business, and Dunkeld being a well-recognised brand in its own right.”
He attributed the success of Dunkeld Smoked Salmon to hard work, a solid team and good luck.
The biggest success so far
Mike was also full of praise for master smoker Ronnie Ross.
He said: “Ronnie’s experience ensures that our core products are consistent and second to none.
“There would be no Dunkeld Smoked Salmon without our master smoker and one-time owner of the business, Ronnie.
“He has been here for 32 years.
“He started here in 1990, learning from the old masters the art of dry curing which we do for 18-20 hours, before smoking using shredded whisky barrels for another 18 hours.
“Much has moved on from hand slicing to the more hygienic modern high-tech slicers.
“When previous owners wished to dispose of the properties/land, the business was going to be shut down.
“Ronnie stepped forward and kept it running.”
Mike believes the biggest achievement of Dunkeld Smoked Salmon to date has been managing to come through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“To still be operating was a success in itself. We used that time to restructure parts of the plant.
“We also invested in areas we might not have had the opportunity to do whilst being fully operational.”