Alness Business Rewards Staff Efforts Following Record Breaking Year

One of the UK’s major processors of Atlantic salmon and trout has met unprecedented demand for retail fish products during the COVID-19 crisis — breaking yearly, weekly and daily production records.

As their work continues, they’re reflecting on this unprecedented year and, having rewarded staff efforts with bonuses during 2020, ensuring a system of ‘recognition and reward’ is in place for their most dedicated staff.

Employee-owned AQUASCOT LTD has been operating since 1987, and, having traded with them since 1993, established a dedicated partnership in 2003 with UK retailer Waitrose & Partners — who remain their primary customer.

At the beginning of 2020, they were optimistic about the year ahead and exploring options for new equipment and processes, but these plans were soon expedited by the global events of March 2020.

In response to the majority of UK residents suddenly living and working at home, the Waitrose customer demand for Scottish salmon from Aquascot quickly rose by 16% on the previous year.

As a food producer, the company’s ‘key worker’ status was soon established, and swift decision-making was vital to ensuring production did not cease during the particularly uncertain early weeks of the pandemic.

New layout changes and robust controls were introduced to ensure distancing and safety for staff in the facility, and the leadership team quickly established a dedicated COVID-19 resilience team to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their partner employees.

To date, they continue to manage Aquascot’s response to ever-changing circumstances and ensure effective communication to partners in all departments.

This group’s daily briefings have been the backbone of Aquascot’s success in weathering the challenges faced, and the emphasis on communication, decision making and vigilance was bolstered by financial investment in new equipment for Aquascot’s primary, secondary and ‘value added’ processing facilities — including machinery to fillet, trim, freeze and package greater quantities of fresh fish than ever before.

With the resilience team engaging proactively with external agencies such as Scotland Food & Drink, Food Standards Scotland and Health Protection Scotland, this commitment to clarity, communication and responsiveness has kept Aquascot connected to Scotland’s wider food production chain, and ensured that the company are kept up to date with any changes to guidelines, particularly regarding food safety.

Craig Douglas, Operations Director at Aquascot:

“There is no single answer to how we managed record volumes while controlling COVID-19.

“We could consider the volume and COVID-19 impact separately, but they were intrinsically linked during 2020 and were influenced by three main factors — sound investment in new equipment and processes; strong leadership across the business; and the great response of our partners in following guidance, working hard and showing flexibility.

“We have never been complacent, and will continue to focus on keeping all partners safe and well while we strive to meet the increasing demands of Waitrose and their customers.”

During the 12 months of COVID-19 restrictions and this spike in demand, Aquascot recorded their highest volumes for a year-long period — but also broke records for weekly and daily output.

As the second quarter of 2021 begins, they continue to operate at a high level, and while lowering COVID-19 cases and vaccination roll-out across the Highlands is a source of growing optimism, they have established critical contingency plans for any conceivable emergencies.

For Aquascot partners, work goes on — but their efforts have been rewarded with bonus salary payments and a ‘recognition and reward’ system that offers both financial rewards and new opportunities for staff who want to develop further, introduce new initiatives and help the company grow.

John Housego, Managing Director at Aquascot:

“The main purpose of ‘R&R’ is to reinforce the expectation of living our core values and recognise the top contributors that make a difference to our business.

“There’s a mechanism there: it has to be internally fair and consistent, and it needs to be externally competitive in all aspects of what’s competitive – it’s not just about how much money you get paid, it’s also about opportunity to grow and develop.

“One of my mindsets is to remove any barriers that prevent individual partners following a passion or a desire to contribute.

“What we need to do as a whole group is to help each other grow and be more capable; and if we could all grow and do a little bit more, then not only do we get more done and more value added, but we’re all growing and developing each other.”

Aquascot are recruiting dedicated, hardworking production partners for immediate start at their Alness facilities at Fyrish and Riverside.

Interested candidates should contact craig.douglas@aquascot.com for more information.