BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Business  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Market Data
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 17:42 GMT
Loch Fyne oyster farm for sale
Mussel beds
Western Scotland's seas have no shell fish parasites

One of Scotland's best known food brands, Loch Fyne Oysters, is up for sale.

We've always enjoyed our exporting. We deal with a fund of very interesting individuals

Andrew Lane, managing director
The 25-year old firm is seeking a buyer after the sudden death of its co-founder, Highland landowner and keen environmentalist Johnny Noble in February.

Anyone with at least 5m to spare and a passion for the West Highlands, conservation and fine dining can apply by getting in touch with merchant bank Noble & Co, which has family ties to the late laird.

As befits sellers of gourmet food, LFO's management plans to be picky.

Keeping crofting alive

The ideal buyer would be interested in "a philosophy, not just a brand" said LFO managing director Andrew Lane, who co-founded the firm with 100 in the mid-1970s.

Loch Fyne oyster beds

Loch Fyne Oysters also sells mussels, fresh and smoked fish, venison and organically farmed meat.

"We're all about the provenance of the West Highlands...We're providing a market for lots of small rural folk," says Mr Lane.

Buyers of its upmarket molluscs include the Royal Opera House, London, and Singapore's lavish colonial-era Raffles Hotel.

To Russia, with love

LFO has annual sales of 8m and exports to 22 countries, with sales evenly split between three main markets - UK hotels and restaurants; exports; and home delivery and its loch-side shop.

The Loch Fyne Restaurants chain also sells LFO oysters, though it became an independent company five years ago and is not up for sale.

Loch Fyne
LFO wants a buyer who values the West Highlands

LFO's more bizarre marketing experiences include selling kippers to Zambia and oysters to Moscow's Bolshoi ballet, until the sudden disappearance of the firm's Russian agent in the mid-1990s.

"We've always enjoyed our exporting," Mr Lane said

"We deal with a fund of very interesting individuals."

Oysters back in the swim

The peak season for oysters is from September to December - the Victorians dined on goose and oysters for Christmas rather than turkey.

Oysters were not always an upmarket dish.

They were the Victorian equivalent of fish and chips, sold at cheap diners such as Edinburgh's "oyster howfs" along with a glass of claret or brown ale.

They remained popular with the poor until about 1900 when overfishing and pollution made wild oysters scarce.

Mr Lane said oysters were becoming increasingly affordable again - LFO's start at 50 pence each.

The firm has 4 million of them sitting in mesh baskets under the waters of Loch Fyne.

The reefs they create help to support other marine life.

"The waters off Western Scotland are completely free of disease and parasites of shellfish," Mr Lane said.

Long term approach

It take five years to fatten up an oyster, after which they are full of trace minerals, which may explain their reputation for possessing aphrodisiac qualities.

LFO's organic approach and emphasis on knowing where its products come from is "the exciting future of food," Mr Lane said.

"We're looking for the right partner here, we're not just hanging out looking for the highest bidder."

See also:

16 Oct 02 | England
01 Sep 02 | Scotland
22 Jun 01 | Scotland
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |