The British are the world’s largest consumers of cod. 70 percent is used in the “fish and chips” market. Lately several Norwegian owners of trawlers have discovered the British market for the “frozen at sea” concept.
-The pendulum swings. Now several Norwegian exporters see profitability in the UK market, and several have fitted fillet production facilities on board their trawlers. A number of shipping companies have discovered the UK market and the demand for “frozen at sea” cod. This is exactly what the Norwegian Seafood’s envoy in the United Kingdom, Jack Robert Mills, told those present at a large conference in Middle Norway earlier this year.
THE WORLD’S LARGEST MARKET
Since 2011 the British has been the world’s largest market for cod. According to Mills, this is a market made for a seafood country like Norway. We have a long tradition with export of fish to the British Isles, and last year Norway saw an export growth of 12 percent. Although Iceland dominates the export of fresh fillets to the UK, the “frozen at sea” products are gaining market shares.
-”The Fish and chips” industry is faithful to the fresh fish market, but the British have discovered that “frozen at sea” fish is a stable and predictable concept both in terms of quality and delivery. This is a continuing trend, Mills said at the conference.
A LOT OF FISH EATEN OUTSIDE THE HOME
The British eat a lot of seafood and a lot of it is eaten either in restaurants or as “take away”. The total last year was 300,000 tons of imported cod to the United Kingdom. 150,000-170,000 tons went to the restaurant segment. “The Fish and chips”-industry is important in this respect. It accounts for 54 percent of all seafood consumption in the British Isles. The remaining 130,000 tons of cod are sold via supermarkets and independent fish merchants.
Every week 22 percent of the British visit so called “chippies” and cod has a strong position among the customers. 36 percent of the deep-fried fish in the “horeca” segment is made of cod, while fish sticks (51 percent) and haddock (13 percent) claim the other market shares. There are also regional differences in what customers prefer. In Scotland and Northern England haddock is preferred, while in the South and in the London region customers want cod.
This year, the Norwegian Seafood Council, together with the owners of factory trawlers Ramoen, Granit, Andenesfisk 1, Atlantic and Frøyanes, started a campaign called “Norwegian Frozen at Sea” in the British Isles. The motive was to build the brand name. The campaign ran in May and September and was called Union Norway. British importers Smales, Unique Seafood and Fastnet plus 60 selected “fish and chips” retail outlets all over the United Kingdom joined the campaign. Already at the end of April the Norwegian Seafood Council invited the British distributors and approximately 80 percent of the restaurants to a campaign-kick off at the Norwegian Embassy in London.
-The distributors have chosen their outlets. They have been chosen based on quality, academic excellence, that they look good externally and are loyal buyers of Norwegian cod and haddock as part of the “frozen at sea” concept, “says Mills.
He further says that the purpose of the campaign is to tell the customers the story of the trawlers and of Norway as a supplier nation in addition to creating increased traffic and revenue for the “chippies” that participate. Last year the Norwegian Seafood Council did a one day marketing campaign with the distributors and the “chippies” where “fish and chips” were sold for 99 pence a portion. According to the Seafood Council’s representative in the British Isles the campaign got a lot of attention and the restaurants that participated made good profits.
MARKET GROWTH FOR SALMON
It is not just “frozen at sea” fillets of cod and haddock that excite the British. The last three years the Norwegian salmon has seen an annual growth rate of about 30 percent in the UK market. During this year’s first four months 25.467 tons of salmon were exported from Norway to the UK. That is 6,000 tons more than during the same period in 2014 and over 10,000 tons more than in 2013.
This year’s prices were at the same level as last year, which means between 47, 14 and 45, 65 Norwegian kroner per kilo. Norwegian salmon is mainly sold through supermarket chains. The greatest market share is enjoyed by the five big chains; Tesco (22.5%), Sainsbury (15%), Morrison (11%), Marks & Spencer (11%) and ASDA (9%). But also smaller chains such as Lidl, Fishmongers, Ocado, Aldi and Waitrose have stable sales figures of Norwegian salmon.
THE LAUGHING HALIBUT
One of the “fish and chips” restaurants participating in the campaign is The Laughing Halibut. The restaurant with the both catchy and funny name is located a stone’s throw from Victoria Station in London. The Laughing Halibut is one of three selected outlets in the capital. General Manager Raif Raif says that his family has run the place since 1982. He says he enjoys the national campaign the Norway’s Seafood Council, distributors and some retail outlets is running.
- Our customers say they find the campaign interesting and they like the bags with the Norwegian logo they get when they shop. Customers that buy more than 30 pounds get an exclusive cooling/warming bag with a logo, which they like, says the friendly and joyous owner. While we’re talking with Raif there is a steady stream of customers ordering “fish and chips”. Most of them are local customers who chat with Raif. But there are also some Finnish girls who come by to eat. They have apparently found the place via Trip Advisor.
- “About 60 percent are local customers that come by several times a week. The rest are tourists, but not so many Norwegians,” he says. The turnover varies somewhat throughout the year, warm summer days are bad for business. On such days daily sales may be as low as between 100-150 servings of “fish and chips” made from cod and haddock. Cold winter days are better for business. Then the Laughing Halibut may sell more than 200 servings a day.
- Most people prefer cod, but my personal favourite is haddock, Raif says. - In addition, we also have halibut caught off the coast of Scotland on our menu, he adds while pointing to fresh halibut fillets on display. He says has learnt about Norwegian fish through several years as a regular customer of seafood wholesaler Unique Seafood.
-We have been Unique Seafood’s faithful customer for 12 years as well as a loyal buyer of Norwegian fish. We can even choose what trawlers we want to buy fish from, he says. So far the campaign has not led to an increase in sales for the family business, but he says that they are getting promotion through the campaign in ways they otherwise would not get. At the same time, they can use advertising materials they have received from Norway’s Seafood Council and Unique Seafood.
- The cod is very tasty and our customers frequently ask where it is from and how it is produced. We tell them about the “frozen at sea” concept. To other customers it is important that the fish is from sustainable fishing, as Norwegian fishing is, says the pleasant fish shop-owner.
At Andenes in Nordland County the factory trawler Andenesfisk 1 has just docked after six weeks of fishing. The approximately 550 tons of fish is being unloaded and shipped to the markets. Most of the catch is “frozen at sea” cod fillets and HG-cod. The “frozen at sea” fillets of cod and haddock are mostly shipped directly to the UK. There are also a few shipments to Portugal, Spain and the United States. In addition, the company has experienced a large increase in the Turkish market. The strong British currency and good prices this year have given the company a double effect. Still they are experiencing a stronger competition coming from Russia and China in the haddock and cod fillets market.
-The UK market fluctuates and a lot of the fish sold is used in the “fish and chips” industry. If prices fall we experience small volume fluctuations even though the total consumption is stable. We have focused “frozen at sea” fillets on the British market, but are experiencing fierce competition from Pangasius manufacturers in Asia, says Andreas Haugen, the CEO of Andenes Sea fishing company.
CREATING SOMETHING NEW
Haugen says that the company has been active in the British market since 1987, and has established a steady customer group through his business partner in the UK. They experience the market as more stable and that they have a very good relationship of trust with their customers and consumers.
-We have regular deliveries to restaurants, supermarket chains and stores in the UK, and rarely have fish in stock. When market and demand fluctuate we fine tune production and split each catch on board, “ he added.
Last year Andenesfisk 1 hosted 10 of the finalists of the British fish and chips-awards. During a 2 - 3 hour tour they got to experience how the fish was handled and packed on board. Haugen believes this gave them a greater understanding of how the fishing is done and assurance that the quality is protected in the best way. They also take customers from supermarket chains and restaurant chains on fishing trips. Because of this Haugen feels it is good that the Norwegian Seafood Council, along with the shipping companies, put more emphasis on whitefish in the UK market.
- It is very positive. This is a shared effort between ship owners, the Seafood Council and distributors in the UK where the goal is to get publicity, get down to street level and create something new around the “fish and chips”-concept, Haugen explains. He adds that British media has created an image of the North Sea as being cod free and that it is therefore important to get the message across that fishing in the Barents Sea is sustainable.
- English clients are concerned with the quality and that the fish come from a sustainable population. It is therefore important to inform them that fishing of Norwegian Arctic cod is restricted by quotas to ensure sustainable fishing.
GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
The trawler, owned by fishing Andenes Havfiskeselskap AS, was delivered from the shipyard in November 2013. The vessel has a cod quota of 4.400 tons, most of it delivered as fillets and HG. After a somewhat rough start, the production has for the most part run smoothly in terms of production, and according to Haugen there have been no production halts at sea.
The trawler is one of the most modern and environmentally friendly vessels of the Norwegian fishing fleet. With a diesel consumption of one cubic per day there is less consumption than the company’s predecessor. With a DNV-clean design there is no contamination of the oil or spill water. The ship is also obliged to keep accounts of CO2 emissions. The cause of the low consumption is Andenesfisk 1’s hybrid-propulsion, and that it uses the surplus energy from the electro engine for forward thrust in the sea.
-We cannot run more eco-friendly than we do now, CEO of Andenes Sea fishing company, Andreas Haugen concludes.