Business South August 2022

58 | “They’re very popular in the United States as a luxury food offered everywhere from cruise ships to Las Vegas casino buffets.” Marlborough: Talley’s Blenheim REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT NZ greenlipped mussels a hit in US Richard Loader Within hours of harvest from the clear, cold Marlborough Sounds and Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s native greenlipped mussels are processed into a range of top-selling products. At their Blenheim and Motueka plants, Talley’s trademarked Greenshell Mussels are heat-treated then marinated or snap frozen whole, on the half shell or as carefully extracted meat. There are currently four products on the market, with the shellfish processing line never standing still. Describing himself as a ‘lifer’, General Manager for aquaculture Don Boote has been with Talley’s for more than 40 years. The Talley’s shellfish story starts in the mid-1990s, 60 staff and a new mussel processing plant in Blenheim, he says. Fast forward to 2022, the division has the capacity to employ up to 300 workers. “A new factory was built in the Blenheim site for the half shell product line in 2018. The vacuum-packing process was added to the plant in 2021 and plant upgrades are also planned for the Motueka plant. We process about 30 percent of New Zealand’s annual 90,000 tonnes mussel harvest, into snap-frozen half shells. Most of this happens in Blenheim.” The raw mussels are lightly blanched to kill listeria microbes, hand-opened, frozen and packaged for distribution to more than 100 countries. “Most of our half-shell mussels go to food service markets. They’re very popular in the United States as a luxury food offered everywhere from cruise ships to Las Vegas casino buffets,” says Don. “People love New Zealand green-lipped mussels. They’re delicious, high in healthy protein, very versatile to prepare and one of the most sustainable seafood options. What consumers don’t necessarily know, however is the people story. We have amazing mussel openers — an amazing team of people.” Don says this success is attributed to several factors. Talley’s pays the highest piece-rate in New Zealand and staff are supported with tailored training to make sure they are opening mussels safely and ergonomically. “We have great people and many long-serving staff of twenty years or more. Some aren’t in a hurry to leave either. We have one worker happily working in his 80s and another who left in their 70s!” COVID-19-related restrictions, outbreaks and isolation rules have affected staffing, as food processors like Talley’s are challenged with less staff working and supported under strict health and safety protocols. “The food service market took a huge hit in 2020 when restaurants all over the world closed. But we’ve persevered and things are starting to pick up again.” With staff shortages an ongoing pressure, Don says Talley’s is looking to automate some of its more basic mussel processing, such as packing pottles into cartons. “We’re looking to work smarter, automate the easy stuff and place people into more skilled jobs where we can.” We specialise in the temperature controlled transportation of produce and food grade products around New Zealand. Proud to support Talley’s Limited Email: Phone: 021 826 384 REAL COOL TRANSPORT EVERYWHERE Opportunity knocks - page 60