Rooney Fish, Est: 1975 is a family run business with John Rooney, his wife Rosemary and son Andrew at it’s helm. It is the biggest fish processing plant of its kind in the whole of Ireland. They specialise in the processing of the finest catch from the Irish Sea including white fish, prawns and shellfish (King Scallops, Whelks, Periwinkles, Crab, Shrimp and Lobster) which it sells to customers throughout Europe and beyond. The main plant is located at quayside in Kilkeel ensuring the capturing of the freshest produce. The plant is 6000m sq. It is a modern fully EC approved facility with the most up-to-date technology. The processes currently running are: (1) Blast Freezing, (2) Nitrogen Freezing, (3) cooking facilities, (4) 5000 m sq. of cold storage capacity, (5) fully automated graders, (6) a variety of packaging operations and (7) an in-house laboratory facility. This is matched only by the highest standards in hygiene and sanitation supported by highly qualified and motivated teams of operatives. This is proven by our successful attainment of quality awards in food processing which is on-going and continuous.
Rooney Fish started out almost by accident: at least, that’s the idea you could get if you listened to John Rooney! “I was a jack of all trades,” he says. He started by training as a bricklayer, then became a car mechanic, and also worked for a while as a joiner. “I suppose you could say that I had a good background knowledge about anything to do with repairing old buildings or old vehicles.”
But, John had an entrepreneurial spirit, and when an accident prevented him from working for a while and a group of friends persuaded him to buy fish on their behalf at the Kilkeel fish auction and bring it to their factory in Wexford, the seeds were sown. “I progressed to having small premises of my own to fillet and smoke fish and pack whole prawns for Europe.” Purely by organic growth, larger premises were required as the business expanded until now it is not only one of the largest, but also one of the best equipped and technologically advanced fish processing plants serving European markets and turning over more than £6 million annually.
Rooney doesn’t just sell prawns of course. In addition to langoustines the boats bring in scallops, crab of various sorts, periwinkles, razor fish, mussels, oysters and shrimps. These are brought straight from the quayside to the factory, prepared to the strictest EU quality standards and Nitrogen fast frozen at -130 degrees. Packaging is done to the customers’ requirements and can be any way they want it – gas flush (MAP), shrink wrapped, vacuum packed or, for fresh product, in trays. The product leaves the factory, says John Rooney, ready for the consumer to pick it off the supermarket shelf in France the next day.
The business continues to expand too, with a new cooking line obtained from a leading supplier in Canada, at a cost of more than £500,000 and a £750 000 investment in state of the art cooking equipment.
The logistics have to be coordinated to get product to customers without delay. John Rooney explains: “We cook on mornings when we have to ship to Boulogne. If we cook this morning we have it in Boulogne tomorrow morning, and it is distributed from there to the supermarkets via Rooney’s distribution partner Agrifish based in Viterbo, from where it supplies the entire country, with other distributors in Spain (Barcelona) and France (Boulogne). Now it has its sights set on Eastern Europe and is already selling its products in Slovenia. In fact, John Rooney has created a business that provides high quality products and unrivalled customer service to discerning customers – a happy ‘accident’ indeed!