The owner of the Pished Fish, James Eagle, has been through four different smokehouses since he started, but he’s hoping the current one will be where they stay for a little bit longer.
The current venture sits at the centre of two shipping containers in Sussex, England. But before that they were using garden sheds at the back of their house in Camberwell, London.
Now, they’re getting ready to move once more: into converted farm buildings following the growth of their business.
“That should keep us going for 3 or 4 years,” Mr Eagle told Salmon Business.
The business sells alcohol-infused smoked salmon, and originally supplied salmon almost exclusively to farmers’ markets. But in 2017, they began supplying to restaurants, supermarkets and even as far as Hong Kong.
And that’s a big job considering there’s only four staff members including James and his wife.
Mr Eagle told Salmon Business: “Parts of the process can be done on my own. One day of smoking I can do on my own but then slicing, packaging and filleting there is at least three of us doing that.”
There’s only one production run each week. They get the salmon from Billingsgate Fish Market in London, and it comes in via Scotland either from Loch Duart or Wester Ross, whichever is cheapest.
Mr Eagle told Salmon Business: “The smoking process starts when we get the salmon in. We slow cure it: salt, sugar, alcohol, herbs and spices. Each of the different flavours have different recipes to go with it. Then we’ll smoke it over the next week. We combine different flavours with different wood smokes.”
They sell around 150 kilos of salmon each week, but it depends on the time of year. They also turnover around £200,000 per year.
Inspiration for the business
Life for the smokehouse started when Mr Eagle went on a trip to Scandinavia.
“I used to work in medical devices and I travelled all around Scandinavia training sales teams in how to sell our products,” Mr Eagle said.
“And over in Scandinavia there’s lots of gravlax, lots of smoked salmon, and I was more interested in the gravlax flavours, so vodka, for example. Different herbs, spices and quite often alcohol as well.”
“Back then, I would come home – go to the fishmonger and try gravlax at home. My wife bought barbecues, I went from curing fish to smoking and that was all happening at the bottom of my garden.”
“I then got made redundant from my job. I was waiting for the phone to ring from another job. I would be doing more and more curing at home. I was giving away kilos of the stuff to friends and family.”
Since he started the smokehouse he’s found it a lot harder than he first thought it was going to be. He said: “It’s a really traditional industry. When I started I just thought a fish was a fish. It turns out it’s not quite as simple as that.”
“What I found dealing with members of the public at the farmers’ market, I think the public don’t realise there are different qualities of salmon. I think the general public just think salmon is all exactly the same.”
He adds that farmed salmon gets particularly bad press.
Mr Eagle said: “People say if it’s all farmed, it’s a terrible thing. Or it’s all the exact same quality. Unfortunately, I think the salmon industry gets a bad press.”
“I think the more that can address those things the better. It doesn’t seem fair when you see these exposes on salmon producers, and they highlight a bad salmon, you don’t get to see other ill animals, it seems rather strange.”
So how does Mr Eagle see the future for the Pished Fish. “Export markets is where we are heading,” he said. “We’re looking to go to a few more international trade shows. And then expanding our product range, moving from salmon and trout to doing more fish.”