2016 was a record year for Norwegian seafood exports.
2016 was a record year for Norwegian seafood exports.
Norwegian seafood exports reached a milestone in 2016. Sales went up 23 percent from 2015 and the value of seafood exports passed NOK90 billion for the first time, 70 percent of which came from farmed salmon and trout.
While the majority of exports – some 67 percent – still goes to other parts of Europe, exports to Southeast Asia are growing.
“In 2016 as a whole there was a 4 percent decrease in volume of salmon to EU, whereas Asia as the only growth region had an increase of 3 percent, clearly demonstrating how strong the Asian market is, and how much the consumers appreciate high quality salmon from Norway,” says Jon Erik Steenslid, regional director of the Norwegian Seafood Council Southeast Asia. “The main markets for consumption of Norwegian salmon in Southeast Asia in 2016 was Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. In Thailand it is especially worth noticing that the export of fresh salmon increased by almost 30 percent to 7,000 tons clearly demonstrating increased consumption of Norwegian salmon in Thailand.”
The Norwegian Seafood Council a government owned company established in 1991 under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries whose main objective it is to support and drive growth of Norwegian seafood exports. The council is financed through an export fee, which means the companies exporting Norwegian seafood pay a small percentage of the export value, ranging from 0.3 to 0.75 percent, which is then used by the NSC to increase the value of Norwegian seafood resources. With 13 offices around the world, the council’s main areas of responsibility are market insights, market development, market risk management and reputation risk management.
According to Jon Erik Steenslid, 2016 was significant for Norwegian seafood exports for a number of reasons. The year saw record high prices for salmon exports as a result of increased global demand combined with no growth in production. “However, the high salmon prices has had an effect on demand, especially in Europe, where export volumes to some our key markets are decreasing,” he explains. “In 2016 as a whole there was a 4 percent decrease in volume to EU.”
The main focus of Norwegian seafood in Asia is salmon. Other types of Norwegian seafoods are being exported to the region but the popular fish accounts for the majority both in terms of volume and value. “In all of the capitals of these countries salmon has become the most sold fresh fish product,” explains Jon Erik Steenslid.
What distinguishes Norwegian salmon exports is the dominating position as the world’s largest producer of salmon and the fact that the fish is exported fresh and not frozen as is the case with salmon from other countries. Importing fresh salmon is important in a region where food safety is becoming an increasingly debated topic. “Food safety is quite a big issue throughout Asia and through our extensive market research, we know that consumers in this region see Norway as a clean country and a reliable country with high quality products.” says Jon Erik Steenslid. “We market the origin of the seafood first of all so we work with restaurants and supermarkets to develop what we call point of sales materials highlighting the Norwegian origin. We want consumers to know where the fish is coming from, we want them to now it is fresh and that is has been air flown
into the market in order to give them confidence in the product.”
Promoting Norway as the country of origin is more than just branding. The country has a long history of aquaculture with unparalleled expertise. The industry is regulated by what is by many considered the world’s strictest regulatory framework, which ensures consistently high quality and food safety. A comprehensive tracking system means all Norwegian salmon is traceable from the moment it hatches from the egg and all the way to the marketplace around the world.
Consumers are also becoming increasingly educated, Jon Erik Steenslid notes. “Consumers are becoming more educated about the health benefits of salmon, and they also appreciate it for its freshness and food safety, particularly for raw consumption such as sushi and sashimi,” he explains. “The sushi trend is still growing as consumers are seeking a more healthy and trendy diet. This is also adding to the fact that consumers are becoming more demanding and quality conscious, expecting to be served high quality products and are willing to pay for it.”
While there are strong trends and similarities in Southeast Asia, regional differences exist as well in terms of food culture. While Singapore is one of the countries in Southeast Asia with the highest consumption of fresh salmon, countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have lower consumption, which Jon Erik Steenslid attributes to cultural factors. Exports to Thailand have seen significant growth in recent years, increasing by 83 percent from 2014 to 2015 and by 30 percent from 2015 to 2016. While Thailand has historically imported mainly frozen salmon which is then reprocessed and exported to other markets, the country is increasingly importing fresh salmon, according to Jon Erik Steenslid.
He is very confident about the future of Norwegian salmon in the region. “I think Norwegian salmon has a bright future in Southeast Asia,” he says. “2016 clearly showed how important and strong the main markets in this area is, producing yet another record breaking year when many traditional salmon markets struggled. With a growing increase in population and purchase power, combined with love for high quality seafood and willingness to pay for it, I am convinced that Southeast Asia will continue to strengthen its position as one of the most important market regions for Norwegian salmon.”