The project allows each company to receive up to £2000 towards the cost of engaging external expertise to help with business development, and this must be matched with a minimum 20 percent contribution towards the costs.
The programme is currently assisting 28 Scottish seafood companies, which are adding value to their business by creating new products, developing branding, undertaking marketing initiatives, improving efficiencies, reducing costs and raising standards.
"We have been extremely pleased with the reaction to the programme and I have worked personally with a large number of businesses to put together proposals and applications.
"The process is straightforward with a minimum amount of paperwork, and this has encouraged seafood companies to invest in their future,” said Ian Land, Seafood Scotland Business Development Manager, who is leading the project.
One enterprise that has benefited from the programme is FAO27, by undertaking a project to formalise, and in some cases to introduce process and product specifications. The company offers an off-site sales export department for a growing number of local businesses who could not afford to operate their own.
Their project involved examining buyer requirements and looking at the technical complexities of achieving these, identifying potential wastage streams, and putting training into place to ensure that customers obtained exactly what they ordered.
“We discovered that process reviews in particular are difficult, and the exercise forced us and our partners to look a little deeper into what we were doing and to review how we were doing it.
"However, the results have been very good indeed, as we have achieved far more than we expected. We wouldn’t have got nearly so far if we had not had the support to kick start the project,” said FAO27 managing director Anne Moseley.
One of the companies FAO27 is working with is Fraserburgh-based Nordic Shellfish, which was keen to sell into the pan-European retail market.
“To help Nordic achieve their ambition, we needed to start from scratch, putting exact specifications for product and process into place and ensuring that these were workable.
"This introduced a new way of operating for the company, but has helped them to move into a more profitable trading sector,” said Ms Moseley.
The company also helped Wester Ross Salmon to grow their market, by matching this independent Scottish salmon company with an artisanal smokery in France. The smoker is now developing his business using the Wester Ross brand, which comes with its own story and provenance and is proving popular with customer.
“All the improvements so far have been instrumental in securing new business outside the company’s main markets and outside Europe, so we are delighted,” said Ms Moseley.