Fish processsing plant success

A FAMILY-RUN fish merchants is swimming against the gloomy economic tide, after opening a new �2.5m processing plant.

For the last three months, dozens of tonnes of fish landed in the North Sea and across the world, have been processed, packed and sent on to outlets in East Anglia by the Sam Cole Food Group plant on the South Lowestoft Industrial Estate.

The 2,000 sq m plant was built to concentrate the company's Lowestoft operation on one site instead of five locations in the town.

The move, which took place in August, came four months after the formation of the Sam Cole Food Group, which resulted from a merger of packaging, frozen goods distribution and fish merchant operations.

The processing plant employs 40 staff who handle fish from around the world, such as tuna and American lobster, and cod caught from the North Sea by Lowestoft-based fishermen.

Opening the new facility has enabled the Sam Cole Food Group to increase its processing staff by 10pc.

Even though it is still early days for the plant and the newly formed group, managing director Sam Cole, the fourth generation of his family involved in the fishing industry, is pleased that the gamble to build the site is paying off.

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Mr Cole, 45, who jokes his motto is 'If it swims we will process it', said: 'It was a bold decision because of the economic climate and state of the fishing industry. But it is going very well. I am pleased we put our money where our mouth is.'

He added: 'We supply food outlets or fishmongers in East Anglia, from Cambridge colleges to fish and chips shops.'

The company provided 60pc of the funding for the processing plant, with the rest of the capital provided by the Marine Management Organisation and the EU fisheries fund. It also processes, packages and distributes frozen meat.

As well as Mr Cole the other Sam Cole Food Group directors are his father Donny, his uncle Michael Cole and Mark Jermey.

In total the group employs 100 staff and also runs the Lowestoft Shellfish Factory and the Black Olive Delicatessen in Southwold.

In April 2007 after 20 years of friendly rivalry Sam Cole Fish Merchants and JT Cole, run by Donny and Michael Cole, merged to become one of the largest fish merchants in the country.

The Cole name has been linked to Lowesoft's fishing industry since 1935 when Jim Cole – Sam's great-grandfather – set up JT Cole.