Overseas Expansion: Perspectives from a seafood industry trainee
“What the programme does it is helps Norwegian seafood companies expand abroad and improve innovation,” explains Kristoffer Remø . “Innovation is critical for further growth of the Norwegian seafood industry.”
The trainee program is organised by Innovation Norway, the Norwegian government’s most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry. The organisation supports companies in developing their competitive advantage and to enhance innovation. Support areas include building competitive Norwegian enterprises at both domestic and international markets, promoting Norwegian enterprises, promoting Norway as an attractive tourist destination, transforming ideas into successful business cases and promote interaction between enterprises, knowledge communities and R&D institutions.
“I got an office space at Innovation Norway’s Singapore office and they gave me guidance and helped me network,” says Kristoffer Remø . “They have a large network in Singapore so that is very helpful for a newcomer like me. They help you get feedback from the customers, and you can attend different focus groups with chefs to help you understand their needs and the market better. Innovation Norway has been very helpful with this. Torunn Aass Taralrud, Innovation Norway’s Director in Singapore and her team do an amazing job, and I was lucky to get their help”
Kristoffer Remø is the youngest son of a family with proud seafaring tradition. For the past 30 years, the family has run Brødr. Remø, a seafood company specialising in value-added products, primarily smoked salmon and trout. The company has received several awards for their products, and currently delivers seafood to customers all over the world. It is located in Ålesund on the Norwegian west coast, a region famous for its high quality seafood products due in large part to its location on the Atlantic coast.
Home in Ålesund, Kristoffer Remø reflects on the differences between the Norwegian and Singaporean markets. “The difference between Singapore and Norway in terms of the customers is that the taste preferences are very different,” he says. For example, in Norway we love gravlaks or cured salmon, and that is not very popular in Singapore. Yet. We also use a lot more salt in Norway than we do in Asia. But we try to adapt to the markets we are operating in. We are always eager to hear if customers have any new suggestions.”
Kristoffer Remø believes the seafood industry trainee programme has helped his family’s company penetrate the Singaporean market, and he was able to forge a new network, a new importer and a few new customers. Brødr. Remø also attended FoodAsia2016, one of Asia’s largest international food and drinks exhibitions. Attracting thousands of exhibitors and visitors, FoodAsia2016 is a perfect showcase for producers in the food and beverage industry and exhibited products include everything from canned and frozen food to health and organic food, meat and poultry and seafood. “We gave out samples and met with a lot of customers and got really good feedback,” says Kristoffer Remø.
So far, the company’s clients comprise mostly hotels and restaurants but Kristoffer Remø is hungry for expansion. “We are slowly expanding into other Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Vietnam,” he says.
Singapore is a centre for Norwegian seafood exports to the region. The Norwegian Seafood Council, a government owned company established in 1991 under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries to support and drive growth of Norwegian seafood exports, recorded a 16 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in the volume of Norwegian salmon being exported to the region, now at 45,000 tonnes annually, and a 20 percent increase in value, now at 2 billion NOK. Yet the competition doesn’t deter Kristoffer Remø. “There is a lot of competition but what we experience is that it is still hard to get really high quality stuff in these markets. The very high end is relatively unexplored. People have low expectation so to speak. So that is where we are concentrating our efforts. We’re still in the beginning, but we are growing quickly.”
With a growing business in Southeast Asia, Kristoffer is still undecided about where he will live. “I like Singapore and Southeast Asia,” he says, “and Norway can get very cold, so let’s see.”