Sustainable seafood: How to make crisps from surplus salmon skins

For good reason, using surplus products is becoming a popular concept with customers and in business. But, baking waste salmon skins and turning them into crisps? We met up with one entrepreneur who is on a mission to put the spotlight on sustainable seafood snacks.

Daniel Pawson - Sea Chips (1)
Daniel Pawson is pictured – image courtesy of Sea Chips.

“I worked as a chef and in the kitchen we used to throwaway lots of fish skins,” Daniel Pawson, co-founder of Cumbria-based snack business Sea Chips, tells me.

“They were always going to waste and so we decided to crisp them up and use them to garnish dishes, we got amazing feedback and people told us to bag them up and sell them, so that’s we decided to do.”

The circular economy concept aims to minimise waste and optimise resources throughout a product’s entire lifecycle. A strategy Sea Chips has and wants to continue to embrace in its products.

“Food and drink waste is such a timely topic, a large amount of seafood gets thrown away and so me and my co-founder Dom thought, how can we address that issue?” 

Circular economy models gain momentum

At The Manufacturer we previously visited a cheese manufacturer in Somerset who sends the by-products of its cheesemaking process off to produce energy, infant formula products and even vodka, and we spoke to Recycling Technologies, a business who can chemically convert ‘unrecycled’ mixed plastics back into oil. A stark contrast to how firms have historically dealt with waste.

“We built the brand because we like crisps and wanted to use these high quality salmon skins, we thought how can we build something more meaningful, sustainable and try and tackle real issues, so we donate 10% of our profits to ocean charities too,” Pawson says.

How to make the sustainable snack

The business received an investment from Jonathan Brown, owner of Grant Smokehouse, a bespoke smokehouse specialising in Atlantic smoked salmon, which is Sea Chips sole supplier of salmon skins. The investment enabled the team to open up a new factory in Cumbria, and the contribution of the skins ensures a consistent and high quality supply.

To make the savoury snack the salmon skins are carefully cut to size and put through a large cooker on a conveyor belt. There they have any excess oil blown off by airflow technology, the pressure of which is carefully controlled. As the skins move along the belt they are baked by the cooker.

salmon skin - image courtesy of creative commons sustainable
Innovation within food and drink is booming – image courtesy of Creative Commons.

“The airflow impacts the product’s weight, the correct pressure makes the skins much lighter as there is less oil. When we were developing the product, we would put it into different temperatures and airflows, and finally we got the perfect combination.”

After the skins are baked, the now crispy product is packaged in the factory in a semi-automatic process. In total, it takes around one day to create the product. According to Pawson, these crisps are the only in the world where you can get your omega 3 requirement for one day in just a single bag.

He says that each packet can be tracked and that the operation from supply through to retailer is entirely transparent, something essential for a consumer goods manufacturer.

“When we were creating the product, one of the things we wanted to make sure we did was have the smallest number of ingredients, so for our salted crisps we only have salmon skin and salt, the salt comes from the previous smoking process.

“We are working toward a salmon jerky as we are really trying to shake up the savoury snack industry. Innovation within the category is huge, but often products have the same base with crazy flavours added and are not new inventions.

“Nowadays people don’t want to buy a normal brand, they want to know that a brand shares their values, so we are ethically-focused and health-conscious and that aligns with what our customers want, on that supermarket shelf you only have a split second to get your message across.”