Wholesaler Murko Seafood from the Dutch town of Yerseke, grew from a one-man business to a solid company with 35 employees in just over ten years. This growth started with the acquisition of a salmon importer.
Murko Seafood was founded in 2005, when fisherman Barry Murre from Yerseke, a Dutch village known for its shellfish industry, no longer saw a future in fisheries and decided to switch to trade.
“I took over a seafood wholesaler in the village, with a small customer base of fish shops. We mainly sold shellfish: mussels, oysters, lobsters… all Yerseke products, and a little fish. At the time of the acquisition, this wholesaler did not have enough turnover, so I immediately started to attract new customers. I really enjoyed the contact with people and getting more and more customers.”
Acquisitions and growth
Murko Seafood flourished through the acquisition. In 2008 Murre was able to take over a second company. Another wholesaler in Yerseke, a small one-man company, which imported salmon from Norway.
“That’s actually how our growth started.”
The acquired company only bought and sold whole salmon to other wholesalers.
“A year later, in 2009, we started filleting salmon. I saw the opportunities: there was too little margin on whole salmon, but demand for filleted salmon.”
Filleting soon expanded to further processing and the setup of a complete filleting line. In the same year Murre also took over a Dutch catering label, a small company with fifteen customers. With great gusto he started to acquire new customers.
“We now supply 400 restaurants and catering companies. Our company has grown enormously as a result: we now have fourteen of own vans on the road. Nowadays we also do a lot of advice for the hospitality industry, letting them try out new things. We are also curious and enjoy trying out new things ourselves. Here at the company we do the same, to inspire our employees.”
Murko Seafood’s biggest product in terms of volume is salmon.
“That product stands head and shoulders above all else. We do over 25 tons of salmon per week, which is a considerable part of our turnover. We also supply a lot of white fish, especially cod, and round fish, including dorade and sea bass. And, of course, shellfish, which remains an indispensable part of the total package.”
Murre buys his salmon directly from Norway.
“At Leroy, Grieg Seafood, Marine Harvest and Ocean Quality. We want our raw material directly from the source. I regularly go to Norway. I visit my suppliers and we are shown around the farms. I want to know what I am buying so I can tell my customers about the quality and the farming methods.”
His customers are mainly from the food service industry: smokers, caterers and wholesalers.
“My target group is customers who want quality,” Murre continues. “We do not process anything and we do not inject. Our product is pure nature.”
Murko Seafood supplies customers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, with a team of 35 permanent employees. In addition, he hires part-time and temporary employees during busy times.
“For salmon, the entire fourth quarter is a busy period. For all products there is a peak in the summer, especially in the catering industry, due to the influence of tourism.”
The Netherlands and Belgium are Murko Seafoods’ largest markets. “Half of our production goes to wholesalers, with salmon and mussels as the main products.”
He is working on ASC certification for salmon.
“We were once MSC and ASC certified, but we stopped doing so after a while. There was no demand for it, it cost a lot of money, and it was a lot of administrative work. Now we have picked it up again. We noticed some more demand for certified products, so we want to respond to that. Moreover, our company is doing well, so you start thinking about the future and how, as a company, one can contribute to a healthy fish stock.”
Certification makes sustainable seafood more expensive, which is a disadvantage, says Murre. “In spite of that, I think it is important to contribute to a healthy fish stock, focused on the future. Of course, it remains a free choice of entrepreneurs and customers.”
New development at Murko Seafood is offering prepared products.
“The staff shortages in the catering industry are enormous. Chefs are increasingly demanding prepared products. We want to respond to that as an investment in the future.”
With all these developments and the increasing demand, the current location is becoming too small. “We will start building a new factory in January. If all goes well, it will be ready by the end of the year.”
For the future, Barry Murre sees a distinct development towards convenience products for his company.
“When we took the step towards filleting, it gave us a lot of growth. Now we are ready for the next step. We notice an increasing demand for portioned products. We have a fully automatic portioning line from Marel, that is working overtime. In our new factory we will install a second one. We are also going to expand our product range and develop ready-to-eat salmon products with a chef.”