If you haven’t heard of Jimmy Buchan and Amity Fish, where on earth have you been?
An experienced skipper and Peterhead born and bred, Jimmy left school at 16 and went on to achieve his dream of owning his own fishing boat.
With an incredible career spanning more than 40 years, he has the upmost respect in the industry and went on to star in the BBC’s BAFTA award-winning Trawlermen TV series.
Forever humble, Jimmy is a dedicated family man and Amity is of course at the heart of everything.
The multi award winning family run business hasn’t paused for breath in recent years, having diversified during the pandemic before launching Amity Seafood Larder in May.
We caught up with Jimmy’s daughter, Jenna, who is of course heavily involved with the business, and found out why Amity is still making waves today.
Tell us about Amity, when did it launch and what was the original vision?
The seeds of Amity Fish Company as a supply business were sown when Jimmy began visiting trade shows in the mid-noughties.
It was here he saw large companies using provenance to market seafood caught by their fleets.
He took the model and scaled it down, first selling his langoustine direct to local Aberdeenshire hotels.
Chefs loved his produce, and from there he began exploring the idea of broadening out to supply a wider range of Scottish seafood through an online shop.
The business has since grown and Amity is proud to now offer over 70 products online to both businesses and homes across the UK.
In 2019, Jimmy made the decision to come ashore full time to focus on Amity Fish Company, selling the Amity II trawler and putting his full efforts in to his business and building a small, dedicated team around him that were just as passionate about sourcing the best available catch for customers.
Talk us through the changes, including your most recent ones?
COVID completely transformed Amity Fish Company into the seafood supply business we know today.
At the point of lockdown, we were dealing 90% with trade businesses which also had to close overnight.
We were left with the decision to pull down the shutters and send home the team or pivot the business into home deliveries.
The phone wouldn’t stop ringing with people looking for fresh fish deliveries – the demand was clearly there.
So we decided to put our efforts into sourcing and supplying homes and it just grew from there – soon we were receiving orders from across the UK.
This led to us venturing into the world of e-commerce as it was clear as the world opened up again, the demand for restaurant quality seafood in the home was still there.
Today we are proud to have an award-winning ecommerce platform that sends amazing Scottish produce across the UK 5 days a week, with our online store available 24/7.
The biggest change for us recently, has undoubtedly been the physical expansion of the business and our move to 5A Seagate.
We quickly outgrew our original base at unit 1A Seagate and earlier this year we were delighted to be offered the opportunity to take a much larger unit at the same location.
For us, being quayside is so important.
We want to be right at the centre of all harbour activity to ensure our customers the best available catch.
This new unit is 3 x the size of our old one and allows us more storage onsite, larger freezers and refrigeration units, better packing facilities as well as separate office space and better facilities for the team.
Amity Seafood Larder opened in May 2023 and it has been a joy to invite old and new customers in to browse our range for themselves.
What have been some of the biggest challenges?
We mentioned COVID – I think everyone is familiar with the challenges posed by that time.
Supply chain issues are another.
As a seafood supply business we work closely with a variety of producers, fishermen and creel men to source the best available catch.
However when they are struggling to get product this has a knock on effect on us. The industry as a whole right now is struggling to find people to do the work and that then affects what we have access to for our customers.
Inclement weather is another challenge – much like in our seafaring days we need to keep an eye on the forecast.
In bad weather the boats can’t get out, this affects what is available on the markets at that time.
Extreme weather also creates chaos in the courier system if we are attempting to get product to customers across the country.
Hot weather also presents its own set of challenges – we need to be sure your catch arrives in the right condition and pack it accordingly.
It’s another reason why we champion frozen produce – all that nutrition, taste and quality is frozen in at the point of catch ready for you to enjoy when you receive your delivery.
What has kept you passionate about offering Scottish seafood, with a particular focus on local?
Scottish seafood is revered across the world.
As a country we export far more of our own seafood than we consume and its such a shame.
Lately there is a real disconnect between coastal communities and the world class produce being landed right on their doorstep, real high end seafood readily available.
Part of the reason for opening the shop was to create a ‘food tourism’ outlet in Peterhead for visitors to come and see what is sourced right here and hopefully take away a taste of the north east as well.
We get many visitors to the harbour who would previously pop in to our unit looking for seafood and now we are pleased to have a dedicated space for them to visit.
Your business is family run, what is it like to work with family day in/day out?
I think people are surprised to discover we are such a small team really – there are only seven of us here on a permanent basis. A
And its great because we are all so invested in this journey and excited about the development of the business with the new shop and unit expansion.
We jokingly call ourselves Team FAMITY but it’s true.
When one of us wins, we are all winning.
And like any typical family, we’ll occasionally have a disagreement or two. But it feels great having a strong team who really care and feel excited about the future.
Is it difficult to attract the next generation into the fishing industry, or do you think youngsters are beginning to realise that they don’t have to go to sea in order to get involved?
Many businesses like ourselves are finding it hard to find the right people, which is causing real pain to the supply chain in this industry.
It’s really frustrating as well because the work is hard but the rewards are also great and opportunities many.
And yes, there are many different routes to take to support this industry without having to spend a single day at sea. I think education is key.
Do you think Amity Fish has adapted to a changing industry, particularly through your use of social media?
Use of social media and in general turning to digital platforms to support our business has undoubtedly helped us grow.
In terms of connecting with both consumers and growing relationships with fellow businesses, social media and our digital presence has been key.
Many of our greatest leads have come from our presence online.
Tell us about your greatest achievement to date in link to Amity Fish?
For us, the recent move to larger premises- which we feel like we are already outgrowing! – and opening the new shop have been huge achievements for us.
Winning FSB’S UK Small Business of 2022 was also huge for us as it provided great awareness of us and what we do (and Society’s Food Business of the Year TWICE of course!)
Is sustainability important to you when it comes to the products you offer?
It is of the most importance.
Nowadays, there is a real focus on responsibly caught seafood and choosing sustainable options – as there should be.
Most of our trade clients now require a guarantee on sustainability.
People are now far more interested in where their food comes form – and that is great news for us as we are proactively working to protect our waters for future generations to enjoy.
What’s next for Amity Fish?
With an online store, unit move and new shop opening in the past three years, plus the team doubling in size, it feels like we haven’t stopped to take a breath.
However now we are settled into our new home at Seagate, we now have the correct facilities and infrastructure to pursue industry accreditation that will help take us to the next level.
Also on the cards for us will be looking at how we can also start offering takeaway seafood at some point as we do stock plenty ready to eat products – so that is also something we are currently looking at how we can safely and efficiently offer as there is certainly demand for it.
Follow Amity on Instagram @amityfishcompany