Sushi boss on a roll as Barnsley business booms

Stuart Turner
Stuart Turner
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IT is designed and made in Yorkshire, but Stuart Turner’s creation takes its inspiration from much further afield.

Mr Turner, from Barnsley, has launched sushi-making machine Roller-35 to the market via a business he has built up since 2007.

It started with a website selling sushi-making materials which he set up after returning from Australia, where he spent 18 months working in a sushi takeaway.

Today, the firm has 700 products and its customers include the likes of Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Amazon. Celebrity customers have included chef Gino D’Acampo.

Mr Turner explained: “When I came back to live in Sheffield, which is still a reasonably sized city, it was really hard to get hold of (sushi).

“I couldn’t find any ingredients to make anything at home. So I set up a website selling sushi-making materials.”

There are now three brands associated with the business; Sushi Sushi sells sushi-making materials and other sushi-related items to consumers, Sushi Trade sells sushi-making machinery from Japan, sushi ingredients and other equipment to restaurants and takeaways, while Sushi Machines sells sushi-making machines that are designed and made in Yorkshire.

The company launched its first machine via Sushi Machines at a London trade show earlier this month.

So far it has sold 27 machines with around half going abroad to far-flung destinations such as Finland and Lanzarote, said Mr Turner.

The aim of the machine is to de-skill the process of making sushi.

The company is targeting the catering industry, such as delis and cafes, with the product, which allows them to roll their own sushi snacks.

Selling sushi is a global food trend, Mr Turner said, adding that it can prove to be a valuable revenue stream for all food businesses from established catering businesses to start-up food kiosks.

Mr Turner said: “We have had interest from Bolivia to the Philippines. We are also in talks with a Portuguese distributor and an Icelandic distributor.

“We are interested in pushing the machines international.”

At the Restaurant Show 2013 in London, Mr Turner’s Roller-35 machine picked up the Best New Idea Award.

Mr Turner said he was delighted with the feedback the machine has received since its launch.

He added: “When we were at the trade show we had big crowds of people watching us demonstrate it, which was great.”

Now that Roller-35 has been launched, the plan is to roll out other machines to the market.

“We’ve just finished the second one”, said Mr Turner. “We’ve got a smaller one for making small sushi rolls.

“It’s ready to go now and we are wanting to do three other machines too that we have got ideas for.

“The ambition for the machines brand is to just be the number one for sushi-making equipment in the world.”

The business operates from a small warehouse in Barnsley. Mr Turner owns the company and four staff are employed.

While the design of the machines is carried out in house, manufacturing is outsourced to businesses in Barnsley and Huddersfield.

“We are using the metal cutting skills and assembly skills that are really well known round here,” said Mr Turner.

“We are pushing the Made in England brand.”

The firm has received support from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and Enterprising Barnsley, a partnership between Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre and Barnsley Development Agency (the economic development team at Barnsley Council).

The programme is funded by a mixture of European money and council cash.

“One of the reasons we developed the machine is we see it as a product that’s exportable and the growth markets are abroad.

“We’ve been working with Yorkshire’s UKTI to export our products as far as we possibly can,” said Mr Turner.

The business now has an annual turnover of £500,000 and Mr Turner confirmed it is profit making.

But he said he expects turnover to rise next year.

“We have only just launched the sushi machine so hopefully next year we should look at quite considerable growth again.

“I think next year we will probably look at about £800,000.”

Speaking about his future plans, Mr Turner added: “We are trying to focus mainly on trade in general, become more of a wholesaler of food and also push the machines brand.”

UK still catching up on fish snack

THE way sushi is eaten and sold in Australia differs from the UK approach.

Stuart Turner, who worked and lived in Melbourne, said: “People make it at home and it’s really easy to get hold of. It’s much more like having a sandwich rather than being a night out, a la carte thing. It’s more like, ‘I’ll just grab a bit of sushi for my lunch’.”

He added: “It’s getting a little bit more like that here but the price is still hard to justify. Over there there’s lots of little sandwich shops and they all make sushi and it’s all fresh and it’s all cheap.”

Mr Turner moved to Australia in February 2006, returning to Yorkshire 18 months later. On his return, he initially worked as a web developer before concentrating on sushi.