From the clear, cold waters of Norway
Norwegian seafood enjoys an enviable market position in Thailand. This didn’t come about by accident, so the Business Review decided to interview Christian Chramer, the Norwegian Seafood Council’s regional director for Southeast Asia. The council represents all the country’s seafood exporters, who ship to over 100 different countries. Was it hard to brand Norwegian seafood in the beginning? Did you have to educate consumers and suppliers about why Norwegian seafood is a premium product? CC: Norwegian Seafood is not new in Thailand or Asia, but our marketing activity has been very limited over the last few years. I would say that after the first six month of operations in Thailand the market seems quite ready for more marketing activity, and retailers, hotels and restaurants are very open to more marketing of Norwegian salmon. Norwegian salmon enjoys a very good position in the market, with lots of long-term relations both to professionals and consumers. The story of salmon from the cold, clear waters of Norway seems to be well known. Still, the competition is stiff so the Norwegian Seafood Council that works on behalf of seafood producers and exporters in Norway must step up to maintain and strengthen their role as market leader in Thailand. I notice that in some high-end eateries they mention Norwegian salmon by name on the menu or at the buffet table. How long from the start of the marketing process does it typically take for an eatery to start mentioning the origin or brand of your seafood? Of course, it is in the best interest of the vendor to mention it, but there are several imported foods in Bangkok where the origin is not specifically listed. CC: The branding of salmon as Norwegian is often done on the restaurant’s own initiative and not necessarily as a result of our work. Both professionals and consumers have a high regards for Norwegian salmon, and identifying it as so can often command a higher price. For our readers who haven’t eaten any before, what specifically makes Norwegian seafood “the best in the world”? CC: Norwegian salmon farmers were the ones who started the revolution of salmon farming some 40 years ago in the fjords of Norway. The innovative, cutting-edge technology used today has been developed over these years and gives Norway its leading role in salmon production. Norway is a leader both in volume and global distribution, as our salmon is sold to more than 100 countries. To give the shortest possible answer as to why we are the best: Our global leading technology brings a high quality product, from the small fry to the full-sized salmon raised in cold, clear waters. As well, Norway’s geographic position, efficient production and advanced logistics solutions allow us to reach markets as far away as Japan within 36 hours from harvesting. This combined with skilled workers, salmon farmers, world-leading standards and governmental control and regulations makes our salmon probably the best in the world. For several vendors, there needs to be some type of mix between quality and price. What can you tell potential clients about why they should splurge for Norwegian seafood? CC: This is quite simple: Norwegian salmon is available fresh 365 days of the year. High volumes (1.2 million tonnes last year) secure stable deliveries of high-quality Norwegian salmon. I notice that sustainability is a part of your marketing approach. Do Thai or Southeast Asian buyers care about sustainability yet or is the market not mature enough? Do you check that your members are using sustainable practices? CC: We see sustainability as a major part of our operations in Norway and the industry as a whole, both the government and individual producers, put a lot of effort into this area. The market demand for eco-solutions is still not at a high level, but we expect that these issues will be more important for both professionals and consumers in the future and aim to be ready with information, high standards and documentation when the questions are raised.
“Norway’s geographic position, efficient production and advanced logistics solutions allow us to reach markets as far away as Japan within 36 hours from harvesting.”
How much do the health benefits of seafood play into your marketing strategy? CC: In our marketing we talk more about the freshness, taste and joy of eating seafood than Omega-3 fatty acids and nutrition. Still, we know from our research that consumers, especially those in Asia, are quite aware of the positive aspects of eating salmon and other seafood. Health communication is therefore often a part of our total marketing communication, but more as supporting material for consumers seeking more information and recipes. Thailand is well-known for much of its locally produced seafood. Does that make it harder or easier to convince a marketplace to open up to your products? CC: High seafood consumption is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. Our salmon stands out from the “crowd” of other seafood, has high quality, is mainly delivered fresh by air, and enjoys a premium position with many consumers. How many members make up the NSC? Do they have to apply for membership and are they vetted? In order to make some of these claims about quality and sustainability, I would think the council needs to ensure their suppliers can back it up. CC: NSC is a company working on behalf of all seafood exporters in Norway. Currently there are more than 550 companies exporting a wide range of seafood from Norway and all of them contribute to NSC’s country- of- origin marketing. Our marketing plans are developed through a very close dialogue with the seafood industry to make sure that our marketing is in line with the industry.