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Burgons of Eyemouth, based in the Borders, is one of Scotland’s major crab processors, and has just celebrated 100 years in the Burgonsseafood business.   Working from recently modernised premises, the company is BRC accredited.

Together with Blue Sea Food Company, which processes Devon crab in the south of England, the group is Europe’s largest supplier of crab meat to the wholesale sector.   More than 90% of the business is frozen, with the remainder accounted for by production of fresh, pasteurized products.

Burgons supplies to the foodservice market, direct to UK retailers, and to other suppliers who further process for retail sale.   Burgons also has a strong market in French freezer centres and wholesalers, which currently account for around one quarter of all sales.  Exports are also growing to China, the Middle East, Spain and Portugal.

All crab is caught using creels and pots, which allows the fishermen to return undersized, damaged, recently moulted or egg-bearing females to the sea to recover, grow and breed again.  The company has MSC Chain of Custody for Shetland Crab, and as part of its contribution to securing the long term sustainability of the UK crab fishery, encourages fishermen to return small crabs to the sea, even when they meet the legal minimum landing size.

Business Development

Two years ago Burgons was taken over by the Blue Sea Food Company and underwent a process of rethinking its business strategy and product lines.

“Previously we had supplied a range of seafood products, but Burgons is now concentrating on what it knows best, which is crab,” said Sales Manager Claire Duff.  “Our mission is to increase throughput, improve yields, and produce a better quality product for a wider customer base.”

The Challenge

In order to remain competitive in the marketplace, Burgons needed to understand the labour cost and labour recovery per kilo of crab claw meat, to fully understand the true manufacturing cost of production.

Burgons management team undertook a training session on Lean/Six Sigma and identified a project to identify, quantify and improve the variation to standard cost on crab claw meat manufacturing.

How Seafood Scotland helped

Through Seafood Scotland’s Innovation and Value Added Value Support Programme, with additional funding from Skills Development Scotland to facilitate the Lean/Six Sigma skills development, Burgons was able to hire a consultant to help them look at the real costs of producing crab claws and to make standardise working practices to improve on these.

Key outcomes

As a result of the project, Burgons was able to achieve standard yield and labour recovery costs on frozen crab claws, and to improve its fresh labour cost and yield recovery above standard cost by 10%, which has delivered a significant saving to the business.

Comment on benefits of SFS assistance

Dan Taylor, General Manager of Burgons, said:  “Working with Seafood Scotland has been very beneficial for the company, and was key in enabling Burgons to increase productivity and yield.  From understanding our operational requirement through to identification of the help needed, Seafood Scotland was instrumental in pinpointing the correct resource, and ensuring that all the agreed parameters and commitments were delivered.  The service was highly professional and highly recommended.

"The additional support from Skills Development Scotland allowed us to train staff in the Lean/Six Sigma principles, and that has left a valuable skills development legacy that we can build on in the future."

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