In the 1930s, there were around 80 smokehouses in the UK port town of Grimsby. Now there are only a handful that still smoke fish in the traditional way.
For Alfred Enderby, quality and the curing process is still what sets it apart from the surge of kiln smokers, CEO Patrick Salmon told IntraFish.
“Many smokers are concerned with infusing taste rather than the process of smoking,” Salmon said, noting that kiln smokers can result in a more artificial taste.
Alfred Enderby, which smokes salmon and haddock, processes roughly around 2 metric tons of haddock and 100 sides of salmon per week. The two main raw materials are Icelandic haddock and Scottish salmon, sourced directly from the Grimsby Fish Market.
Alfred Enderby's smoked salmon is dry cured through slowly smoldering wood shavings, while the haddock is naturally smoked.
The smokehouse itself has a build-up of 100 years of tar, something that cannot be replicated by a modern smokehouse. The process includes hand filleting the raw whole fish that comes in every morning, then smoking them for approximately 13 hours.
The company is smoking fish for much longer and at lower temperatures than rivals, Salmon said, which brings down the company's total volume compared to smokehouses that expedite the process.
“We’re losing weight, and weight is money, but we’re not cutting any corners. The industry needs to voice that it is expensive, and it should be. It should not be made cheaper,” Salmon said.
The climate also plays a part in the smoking process; the chillier the better, Salmon said.
Do consumers care about quality?
The question, of course, is that in this climate of commodity smoked fish -- will consumer continue to value the craftsmanship?
"In the United Kingdom, we are not great at eating fish, especially with the media focusing on negatives," Salmon said. " We understand the value of the wider industry, which is wholly undervalued."
Labels are one the way to drive better consumer awareness on the importance of fish, Salmon said.
Most of the sales of the company's premium smoked fish goes to the high-end foodservice sector, although Salmon says they sell 10 to 20 boxes per week to the public. The company prefers direct sales to wholesalers. The products are also available online on Alfred Enderby's website.
Alfred Enderby also recently invested in converting a small fishing vessel into a catering boat, which will be inaugurated on Aug. 16.