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Is stockfish becoming trendy?

NORWAY - Italy is the big stockfish country, but the semi-prepared fish can now also become trendy in the home market, says Fiskeriforskning in its fourth and final article about Norway's oldest export product.

Almost all stockfish that is produced in Norway is consumed in Italy. Rehydrated stockfish is a small niche product here in Norway.

It’s easy to get a good result with stockfish.

But the increase in consumption is large - from about seven tonnes of ready-to-cook product in 2004 to 30 tonnes last year. At present, stockfish is largely restaurant food.

"With good marketing work, we expect an annual growth of 40 to 50 per cent", says Frank Jakobsen, Leader of the Stockfish Forum in the Norwegian Seafood Federation.

Stockfish is underrated

Marketing Researcher Morten Heide at Fiskeriforskning has a lot of faith in stockfish.

"Stockfish is an underrated product in Norway. The same is true for clipfish. I think the market potential is great, " says Heide.

"These are products with several positive properties. The taste is characteristic, and the texture is firm and delicate. They can be prepared in a variety of ways."

"In addition, these products have a rich and special food and cultural history both nationally and internationally. There is a lot of potential in this in the marketing work."

An appealing taste

Chef Jørgen Nielsen with grilled stockfish – a popular dish amongst both locals and tourists.

Increasingly, more restaurants are adding stockfish to the menu.

Dampen and Steakers, two restaurants under the same roof and ownership at Bryggen in Bergen, are noticing that more people are acquiring a taste for stockfish. There has been a 30 per cent increase in recent years.

The stockfish they use is pre-rehydrated, skinless and boneless, and thus ready to cook.

"It's a very good product to work with, and it's easy to get a result that's 100 per cent successful", says Chef Jørgen Nielsen.

Expensive product

"Stockfish is still an expensive product, and more expensive than tenderloin and monkfish, for example. Therefore, we can't count on the same profit as for other dishes; it would be too expensive for our customers."

The feedback on the product is positive.

"People are often surprised because they don't expect such a taste and texture from a dried fish. Tourists also experience it as exotic when we tell about the history of stockfish and how it's made", says Nielsen.

Labour-intensive product

Halvor Hansen is selling increasingly more stockfish – here with cod that is filleted before being hung to dry. Only the skin remains, making rehydration and splitting faster and easier.

At Halvors Tradisjonsfisk in Tromsø, they are noticing a steadily increasing interest for stockfish.

Ready-to-cook stockfish is the company's most important product. The raw material is "skrei", spawning cod from Lofoten, which is naturally dried outside.

The stockfish must soak for several days before all the skin and bones are removed.

"It's expensive to process whole stockfish into a skinless and boneless product. That's why I mostly use split fish", says owner Halvor Hansen.

On whole fish, only the head and intestines are removed before drying.

On splitting, the fish is cut lengthwise such that it is only joined at the tail fin, and most of the backbone is removed. This means a shorter rehydration time and that splitting goes twice as fast as it does with whole fish.

Hansen's experience is that split fish also gives 20 per cent  more finished product and better quality control.

Developing the product

In the past year, he has also tested dried fillets with good results. Because only the skin remains, there is much less work after rehydration.

"Fillets don't have as strong a taste as whole and split fish, but this can be an advantage because many feel that stockfish has too strong a taste. Different taste variants can meet different needs", he says.

the Fish Site Editor

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