Henning Brothers, the leading Northern Irish seafood processor, has invested £170,000 in innovative equipment and marketing activities to accelerate the growth in its export sales.

The family-owned and managed company, which is based at Kilkeel harbour, Northern Ireland’s biggest fishing port, in County Down, has installed state-of-the-art equipment, the first of its type in Ireland, which is enabling it to increase production of white and brown crab meat to meet the growing demand from high-end restaurants in Europe.

Introducing this technology will increase the efficiency of the extraction process of white and brown meat significantly and thereby make a better use of the existing limited supply of fresh crabs.

The company has a successful track record of exporting shellfish, especially oysters, to European markets, and is making this important investment following the successful introduction, earlier in the year, of crab meat and crab claws to customers in key European centres.

Mr Harold Henning, managing director of Henning Brothers, said: “The new equipment strengthens our overall competitiveness because it is enabling us to increase the amount of meat that we can extract from our existing supply of crabs.

“We’ve been encouraged to install the new processing plant by the success of the new products to foodservice operations in key European centres. The launch of the products through wholesalers to their customers has been followed by good repeat business. We are very optimistic about the future of our business in European markets.

“The processing equipment will significantly reduce the amount of current waste left over when the crab is processed and increases the proportion of value added output. Increasing output from each crab is also important because the EU may introduce quotas on the crab industry soon.

“The introduction of this technology will consequently maintain throughput of meat for processing from a potentially declining supply base,” he added.

The family-owned and managed business, formed in 1988, currently exports around 90 per cent of its range of shellfish to customers in European markets. It employs 15 people in Kilkeel.