Su Cox

Marine Harvest: 1989-2000

Fish Farmer - - Contents -

In the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, as all of the prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with rapid ex­pan­sion were be­ing over­come, there was a shift in em­pha­sis within Marine Harvest Scot­land, from pro­duc­tion to mar­ket­ing and brand­ing. To this end, the late ‘80s saw the cre­ation of a brand new role, PR and Mar­ket­ing, within the com­pany, a po­si­tion taken by Su Cox (then Su Wood).

‘My back­ground was in PR and Mar­ket­ing, work­ing with lead­ing foodie mag­a­zines’, ex­plains Cox. ‘I was work­ing in Eng­land, but I wanted a move back to Scot­land – be­cause that’s where my fam­ily are from. So in 1989 I ap­proached Marine Harvest – it was do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, and spe­cial, and I wanted to be a part of it.’

When Cox joined Marine Harvest it was, as she ex­plains, ‘very much a com­pany of farm­ing and sci­en­tists. It was at the early stages of look­ing at salmon as food.’ Cox was ap­pointed

Through­out all the many takeovers, Marine Harvest re­tained its most valu­able as­set – its name”

by Mar­ket­ing Di­rec­tor, An­gus Mor­gan, and her new role came along­side the first stages of bring­ing salmon di­rectly into the re­tail mar­ket. ‘Marine Harvest was a dy­namic com­pany, and we be­lieved that aqua­cul­ture would play an im­por­tant part in pro­duc­ing food for an ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion’, she con­tin­ues.

‘We had sup­ply con­sis­tency, so if con­sumers de­cided that they wanted to eat salmon on any given day, we could guar­an­tee that it would be avail­able in the su­per­mar­kets at all times. We wanted to be the lead­ing com­pany in this re­tail mar­ket, and the key to that was mar­ket­ing, vis­ually com­mu­ni­cat­ing our prod­uct. It was chal­leng­ing, and ex­tremely ex­cit­ing.

‘These were the early days of salmon farm­ing – ev­ery­thing was new and in­ter­est­ing’, she con­tin­ues. ‘We had a great team and we worked well to­gether. There was a real pi­o­neer­ing spirit within the com­pany; we re­ally felt that these were the first stages of in­ter­act­ing di­rectly with con­sumers, and I did a lot of work – out­with the gen­eral trade sales, which was dealt with by the sales team – ap­proach­ing re­tail­ers and de­mon­strat­ing the qual­ity, and other ben­e­fits, of our prod­uct.

Cox was based at Craigcrook Castle, in Ed­in­burgh, and over­saw a num­ber of the im­por­tant de­vel­op­ments within the com­pany. One of the first

was Marine Harvest ob­tain­ing the Royal War­rant, in 1990. ‘The ac­cred­i­ta­tion came af­ter years of sup­ply­ing our prod­uct to the royal fam­ily’, she re­calls. ‘I over­saw the de­liv­ery of our salmon to the chefs at Buck­ing­ham Palace, worked with the Royal War­rant Hold­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, and brought in the brand­ing once the Royal War­rant had been ob­tained.’ Cox was also in­volved with the visit of Princess Anne to the pro­cess­ing plant at Blar Mhor, Fort Wil­liam, in 1991.

Another im­por­tant as­pect of Cox’s roles at Marine Harvest was to de­velop in­ter­na­tional trade. ‘I helped to or­gan­ise Marine Harvest’s La­bel Rouge ac­cred­i­ta­tion’, says Cox. ‘I ar­ranged for our salmon to be used in the kitchens of top French chefs and brought po­ten­tial cus­tomers over to our farms – not just from France, but from other im­por­tant po­ten­tial mar­kets, such as Ja­pan. I also ar­ranged vis­its to a num­ber of small in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences, such as the first Brus­sels expo, and Bos­ton. They are now huge, in­ter­na­tional events but at the time they were lit­er­ally half a dozen stalls and a few speak­ers.’

Cox was also in charge of edit­ing the Marine Harvest news­let­ters through­out most of the Nineties, ‘although I can’t re­mem­ber much about them now’, she laughs. ‘How­ever, what I loved about the com­pany was that we had a great team of peo­ple, and we worked well to­gether. The news­let­ters played a very im­por­tant role in link­ing em­ploy­ees within a com­pany that now had oper­a­tions in places such as France, Chile and Sri Lanka, as well as Scot­land. They helped to main­tain that sense of com­mu­nity that the com­pany had fos­tered.’

Cox left Marine Harvest in 2000, ini­tially work­ing with a group of small, in­de­pen­dent salmon farm­ers – fo­cus­ing on ex­ports and La­bel Rouge ac­cred­i­ta­tion – be­fore join­ing the Scot­tish Salmon Com­pany, where she cur­rently works. ‘Of course I still keep in touch with a num­ber of my col­leagues from Marine Harvest’, she says. ‘I had a fan­tas­tic time there, and it was great to be in­volved in such a dy­namic com­pany. And it is also grat­i­fy­ing to see that, through­out all of the chal­lenges and the many takeovers in quick suc­ces­sion, Marine Harvest re­tained its most valu­able as­set – its name.’

Im­age: Cairidh, Isle of Skye

Op­po­site: Su Cox, pic­tured in 1990 Be­low & Op­po­site left: Com­pany news­let­ters, which Cox edited Bot­tom right: At the ESE in Brus­sels 1996. (L-R) Mark MacDavid, Ray­mond Scouarnec, Des Brady and Su Cox

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