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A new strategy for building Norway's salmon sector

28 January 2020, at 9:37am

It might pay for Norway's salmon sector to concentrate on growing its value instead of growing its volumes, according to the leaders of a new project.

As researchers from Nofima, who are taking part in the project QUALIDIFF, note: “Most of us are familiar with the Salma brand, as well as other, similar products from Lerøy and Frøya: appetizing salmon fillets in handy packs; fresh, tasty and easy to prepare, and of a high enough quality to be eaten raw. However, it is still rare to find Norwegian salmon which is ready for cooking or consumption on the domestic market. Norwegian salmon is primarily exported in the form of gutted fish or as whole fillets, while further processing, product development and branding activities take place closer to the final markets. Why do not Norwegian manufacturers create more branded or ready-to-use products?”

Should Norway target more branded salmon products?
Should Norway target more branded salmon products?

As a result the researchers are now investigating what it will take to add further value to salmon as a product.

They reflect that salmon from the likes of Ireland Scotland and the Faroe Islands: “is often perceived as more ‘special’ than Norwegian salmon. This might be due to the fact that Norwegian salmon is considered to be rather ubiquitous, with a very large market share in Europe – it’s easier to stand out when you’re small. However, it could also be that other salmon producing countries are more conscious about (or successful in) highlighting the merits of their products.”

They compare Norway’s salmon with Ireland’s organic salmon; Scotland’s certification schemes and processed end products; and the Faroese strategy to "market their salmon as having a taste that is the closest yet to wild salmon".

Possible Norwegian strategies?

The researchers note that: “If you wish to brand your product as unique, it’s much easier if the products have unique properties which can be easily recognized as such by the consumer. But to what extent is it possible to create salmon products with unique characteristics? We have focused on the qualities of salmon that can be used to differentiate it further. The flavour, colour and consistency of the salmon are mainly determined by the feed it consumes, and to some degree by where and how it is farmed. This gives the producers far greater opportunities to tailor the salmon to different preferences than what is the case for wild fish.”

Other factors under investigation include establishing which properties the consumers care about, such as how concerned they are with fat, colour and texture, as well as whether they care about the products’ origin and ease-of-use.

They are also trying to establish what properties the larger European processing industry prefers in order to create the many products found on the market.

“For the industry it is not always a matter of good or poor quality, but more about how different qualities can be utilised for different products. More knowledge about different qualities in salmon and processing companies’ and consumers’ valuation of different qualities and properties will be a key starting point for increasing the value of salmon. At the same time, we see that the potential in storytelling is still somewhat under-exploited. There are many great stories to be told about the salmon’s origin and its desirable qualities, the industry, the people, nature and the entire process from roe to market,” they explain.

“We see that many Norwegian producers are aware of the opportunities that lie in differentiation, but simply being aware is not enough. Could the next decade be the decade in which salmon producers shift their focus from production growth to value growth?” they ask.