Marine Harvest: 1989-2000
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