Richard Haward’s Oysters is based on Mersea Island, North Essex and also has a retail unit at Borough Market in South-West London.
Richard Haward and his family have been cultivating oysters since 1732, and there are now eight generations of oystermen in the Haward family, making them the oldest cultivated oyster family business in the UK, and possibly even the world.
Two members of that eighth generation include Richard’s sons, Bram and Tom. Bram, Richard’s eldest son, runs the dredging boat, while Tom, Richard’s youngest son, runs the ‘land’ side of the business. Overall, the family have 14 acres of oysterbeds in the River Blackwater.
Exporting Colchester Native Oysters
Richard Haward’s Oysters are perhaps best known for their world-renowned Colchester Native Oyster, harvested in the area since Colchester (Britain’s oldest town) was the Roman capital of Britain. The Colchester Native Oyster is available from September – April, a tradition that stretches back centuries due to the adage that oysters should only be consumed during months containing the letter ‘r’ – a practical reason as they spawn during the summer.
Richard Haward’s Oysters also sell the more resilient oyster, the gigas (otherwise known as the rock oyster), which can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
Richard Haward’s Oysters sell their prized oysters through a multitude of platforms including their online shop, as well as high-end London establishments such as Michelin Star Restaurant, HIDE, whose head chef is Ollie Dabbous.
Another high-profile client of theirs is Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone, whose head chef Nuno Mendes has a Michelin Star, as well as Wiltons, a fine-dining institution, ‘bastion of Britishness’ and the oldest restaurant in London. Outside of the capital, English’s of Brighton, the oldest seafood restaurant in that city, is another one of many esteemed customers.
The company have had a famed presence at London’s Borough Market for many years, which has played a key role in building brand awareness. They now sell 10,000 oysters there per week.
In addition to a domestic appetite for their oysters, Richard Haward also have a global reach that sees their oysters exported throughout Europe and Asia. To build on their already impressive portfolio of exports to global hubs of commerce, food, and culture such as Dubai, Barcelona, Brussels, and Taiwan, Richard Haward’s Oysters have also most recently secured a deal to export to Hong Kong.
The company now have around 20 employees overall, all of whom play a vital role in the continued development of the business and its growth.
How Invest ESSEX are giving business support
Richard Haward’s Oysters initial business situation was to find guidance and assistance in obtaining grant funding for redevelopment and expansion work for the business. They needed to rebuild and develop a site which was used to process over 30,000 oysters every week so it could be modernised, streamlined, and expanded. This would allow them to not only process larger quantities, but also employ more local people so they can continue to grow the oyster industry on Mersea Island.
The initial business enquiry has now expanded to seeking Invest ESSEX’S ERDF funded advisers help with how to streamline their logistic operations, thereby breaking into potential new export markets and growing their online platform so they are able to not only compete with similar businesses, but also set themselves apart due to their unique 300-year heritage.
Invest ESSEX is like a key to the door of expansion. Their plethora of experience and knowledge gives us the confidence to try and not only grow our business but also benefit the local community.
Richard Haward's Oysters
Invest ESSEX have so far assisted Richard Haward’s Oysters in …
- Organising meetings with experts in the field of logistics, marketing and project management/planning
- Providing support and guidance regarding the redevelopment of the Richard Haward’s Oysters site in order to maximise growth and profitability of the business in both the short and long term
- Providing an introduction to the history and current challenges around conservation work for the native oyster as well as the need for modernisation of the processing facilities to allow growth in capacity through increased efficiencies
- Reviewing apprenticeship options
- Reviewing the cost of logistics – introduction to Invest ESSEX logistics expert to look at options
- Agreeing to work on redevelopment plans for Coast Road processing facilities including:
– Looking for available grants
– Introduction to consultant regarding planning advice in conservation area
– Support with social media and marketing
– Review support around exporting-expansion/new markets
Dave at Invest ESSEX has been brilliant at helping me to understand the steps I need to take and the actions I need to implement in order to make the project a reality and secure the funding we need.
Richard Haward's Oysters
With Invest ESSEX’s help, Richard Haward’s Oysters have also implemented steps to try and move their project for grant funding forward as quickly as possible. Meanwhile Invest ESSEX are liaising with the Richard Haward’s Oysters’ marketing/social media manager to improve their online presence and build brand awareness.
How to Shuck Oysters
Sustainable seafood in Essex
The family are very proud of their heritage and believe that the products they sell are the best of the best. Richard Haward is working with the Essex Native Oyster Restoration Initiative (ENORI) to replenish the Colchester native oyster stocks as the industry seeks to become more sustainable. Colchester Native Oysters were abundant until the late 1800s when a combination of factors including disease, overharvesting, and price competition depleted Native Oyster stocks. However, they are now seeing a revival thanks to the efforts of oystermen like Richard Haward and his family.
The global not-for-profit organisation, Slow Foods, recognise the Colchester Native Oyster as an Ark of Taste product, and actively work to help preserve it and other products which are under threat.
Initiatives such as these play a vital role in raising awareness of endangered species. Consequently, they ensure that the oyster industry remains a fundamental but sustainable part of the British coastal livelihood for oystermen like Richard Haward and his family for generations to come.
Invest ESSEX helps companies to relocate or expand in Essex. Our work is delivered by the Let’s Do Business Group and is jointly funded by Essex County Council (ECC) and the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
For more information on how we can support your business, see here: SME Support page