WHEN YOU THINK OF FRESH SEAFOOD MARKETS, YOU DON’T AUTOMATICALLY THINK OF THE SUBURB OF PORTSMITH IN CAIRNS, BUT IT’S HERE WHERE YOU WILL FIND SECOND-GENERATION FISHMONGER ROWAN LAMASON AND HIS FAMILY WORKING HARD TO LOOK AFTER THE AUSTRALIAN FISHING INDUSTRY AND BRING THE FRESHEST SEAFOOD TO THE TABLE FOR ALL TO ENJOY.
The Lamason family has been synonymous with the seafood industry for over three decades. The family pioneered the tuna fishing industry off the coast of Cairns with their original fleet of 13 boats and are renowned for their quality seafood and personal customer service. The fresh produce is sold nationally and globally, including in the lucrative Japanese export market and has become a well-known and trusted brand.
As Rowan’s parents, Bob and Annie Lamason, started to consider retiring, Rowan and his wife Kate decided to jump at the opportunity to take over the family business and cultivate it into an authentic seafood market.
“We noticed around Cairns that the city was really missing the seafood market feel. Whether people know what they wanted to buy or how to cook seafood, we wanted to offer a service to them where they feel confident to ask questions, buy and cook seafood,” Kate said.
The seafood industry in Australia is massive, and our waters are incredible and highly governed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. Traceability and accountability in Australian waters are flawless, explains Kate, and this is what drives the Lamason family to ensure Australians consume Australian seafood, and the industry lasts.
Since taking over, Kate and Rowan have expanded and rebranded while keeping their loyal customers at the forefront of their minds. They wanted to ensure their loyal customers still felt welcomed and would continue purchasing from them while attracting new customers.
“We want to bring a whole new range of customers in, and we want to find out if they are confident with cooking seafood, or do they need help, and what can we do to get more seafood on their plates,” Kate said.
Before taking over Cairns Little Seafood Market, Rowan and Kate started Little Tuna, and it was through that business Kate learnt the value of utilising social media platforms. Kate is extremely active on their social media platforms, engaging with customers and potential customers by posting tips, recipes and new products.
“People ask a lot of questions by messaging us. Because we have Little Tuna as well, I’ve found with that brand; when people find out that they are talking to the owner and then meet us in the shop, they feel valued and important. We create a connection with them,” Kate said.
Rowan and Kate started Little Tuna six years ago, first as a side hustle, but the demand quickly turned into another business. Preserving Tuna started because Rowan was sick of not being able to buy Australian sustainably caught seafood. All the preserved tinned Tuna available was imported and did not support the Australian fishing industry or families.
They knew they could sell their preserved Tuna and, as a result, started to get their feelers out in the industry and had conversations about the possibility. As conversations turned into deals, the pair knew they were onto something good not only for them but for the whole Australian fishing industry. These days Little Tuna is not so little. The product is sold online and stocked in over 130 locations.
“The first few years, we really just did it locally. A few shops here and there, and we didn’t push it too much because we were both working anyway. Then we had ABC Landline pick us up and do a segment; from there, it boomed. We reached markets that social media can’t reach in terms of the type of people we were reaching through ABC Landline,” Kate said.
They converted the back area of the factory into a kitchen for little Tuna, and in the near future, Rowan and Kate would like to expand the kitchen, enabling them to make more Australian seafood products.
When asked how they feel about the rapid expansion and success of their business, Kate shares that, like all journeys, it has not been smooth, but at the end of the day, it’s worth investing in the future of the Australian fishing industry and helping consumers eat sustainably caught seafood.
“There are days when we are like ‘what are we doing?’ Like any business owner, but it’s so nice when people share their stories. Especially with Little Tuna, they stopped eating imported Tuna and now eat our locally caught and made Tuna.”