Solander is one of those old Nelson companies that many people are aware of but because it doesn’t make headlines in the news the company and the things they do tend to stay below the public radar. However if you are a café or restaurant owner, a seafood retailer or are in some other way involved in the food industry you will know them well. This family run seafood company has been quietly growing the range of products they supply and produce, moving from a reasonably traditional seafood company to an added value business.
Solander has been supplying fresh Tuna to the New Zealand market for many years and has a focus on MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) approval for sustainable fishing practices in the waters around Fiji where they line-catch Tuna, Mahe Mahe, Wahoo and Swordfish. In fact Solander was the first company to be MSC certified for catching Albacore Tuna.
If you buy a piece of Tuna at the supermarket or your favourite fish supplier then chances are it is a Solander product that has been airfreighted direct from Fiji to supply the New Zealand market on a twice weekly basis.
Larger quantities of fish arrive fresh, chilled on ice, by sea freight on a regular basis ensuring there is almost always fresh gamefish for you to enjoy.
In 2012 chef Aaron McCorkindale joined the business in a sales position with a focus then of growing the restaurant market for Solander and developing a very small direct retail business to the household market via their website; this is where we started buying direct from them about six or seven years ago. I would rock up to the office in Cross Quay down at the port to collect our order or would tell the office staff what I wanted and they would go out to the factory floor and have it packed fresh for us. We could buy fish from them we couldn’t find anywhere else and Solander became a business we place reasonably regular orders with.
While McCorkindale’s role was to grow the retail side of the business by developing a new customer base, as you would expect, the chef in him needed to be expressed somehow. Solander converted an office into a test kitchen and he set about making a range of high quality products that were sold in small volumes to people who ordered from the website.
The demand for these added-value products was immediate and it wasn’t long before McCorkindale was spending his days in the kitchen preparing batches of paua patties, smoked fish patties, tuna burgers and other chefs treats customers could take home and cook – gourmet heat and eat dishes.
The business outgrew its Cross Quay offices and fish processing factory so it was relocated to McPherson St in Richmond where it has plenty of space to grow the prepared foods side of the business and it is where they have also set up a fish shop. A second chef has joined the team to oversee the hand-made gourmet products which has become a very serious part of the business and McCorkindale is now the Sales and Operations Manager.
There are new added-value products being produced regularly in relatively small quantities with a focus on the gourmet end of the market. These products generally have no preservatives or additives, the Tuna burgers for example are 65% tuna with fresh locally grown vegetables and seasonings and nothing else. Everything is hand-made, patties are hand formed and pressed, crumbed products are hand crumbed and everything is 100% natural using sustainably line-caught tuna.
The Richmond plant gives them the ability to do everything in one place, including smoking fish. Aaron says the smoked fish market is quite strong, because they smoke everything naturally using fresh fish the quality is very good and customers know a good product when they find it.
As well as catching their own fish they also distribute products produced sustainably by others. Southern Glory Oysters are the same as the Bluff oyster but farmed on Stewart Island and come in a range of sizes, right up to ‘Mega’ which is a 32gm or larger oyster, huge by anyone’s standards and while they are perfect for eating fresh they are also in demand for use in seafood pies as well as steak and oyster casseroles.
You will find some gourmet Solander products in the freezers at Fresh Choice in Nelson and Richmond but the very best way to find out what is new and exciting at Solander’s is to check their website and register for their weekly newsletter where they will tell you what fish they have fresh each week, what new products the chefs have been dreaming up and recipes for how to use these fantastic Solander seafood products. For a small charge they can have your order delivered fresh to your door in Nelson and Tasman. Go to www.solander.com