Simon Thomas has gone from creating meals in the kitchen, to cooking up a new range of products for New Zealand King Salmon.
The former chef turned product developer has been charged with leading a new initiative to turn the company’s by-products into higher value revenue streams. And the first dish on the menu is pet food.
“Our core business is producing salmon for chefs in the world’s best kitchens and discerning retail customers,” Simon said.
“Of the 6,000 tonnes we produce each year, we are left with about 1,800 tonnes of gut, heads, trims, skins, bones, tails and frames.
“Until recently, the vast majority of it was trucked to a meal plant and rendered to produce fish meal and an oil product. It is a low tech, low return disposal method and the cost of transportation eroded any profit.
“I believe in business there shouldn’t be any waste and this was an area where there is a lot of room for improvement.
“As a team, we were quite keen to see how we could better utilise those remaining raw materials.”
And with that, Omega Innovations was born – a division of NZKS focused solely on the utilisation of by-products and remaining raw materials.
“We began with a period of exploration first, looking at what we had available and what we could potentially do with it,” Simon said.
“We narrowed it down to five different categories: fishing; burley, bait etc. pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals; pet food, liquid fish fertilisers and keeping the status quo.”
“We identified pretty quickly the ability to capture remaining raw materials at a high quality and our focus shifted to ‘if we captured these very good quality products while they were still fit for human consumption – what could we do with them’?
The resulting answer was pet food. Twenty-one varieties of it.
“We’ve launched a new pet food brand, Omega Plus, with 21 products in the range,” he said.
“We’ve got dry dog and cat food (kibble), treats, wet dog and cat food cans and a salmon oil dietary supplement.”
And like their retail and food service salmon products, the pet food is attached to a premium brand.
“With our Ora King and Regal brands we’ve established ourselves as premium producers and that is something that will be carried through with Omega’s products,” he said.
“We’ve got a unique proposition in that our omega 3s are sea based, and the pet food itself is high in protein, with a raw, high-grade salmon input and offers all the associated health benefits for animals.
“We know from research that the pet food industry is following, and, in some areas, leading human food trends. Customers are doing what they do for themselves and turning around the packs and reading the ingredients. So what we’ve developed is a vet-quality food that’s available at supermarkets.”
Initially the products will be rolled out through South Island supermarkets as the model is perfected, before expanding to the North Island and international markets. The initial response to the products has been encouraging with pets wolfing them down, and while it’s too early to provide revenue forecasts, the venture has already been a win for NZKS.
“As a division we have already created improvements and financial savings for the company just by changing the way we collected and dispatched our byproducts,” Simon said. “We’re committed to being sustainable and continually improving.”