Skrei are Norwegian Arctic cod that migrate some 400 km north of the Arctic Circle to breed. During the season, which runs from January to April, the skrei are harvested at their prime, packed with energy and vitality. This is a fishing ritual that has deep roots. Going back to Viking times, skrei has been a valued delicacy and a mainstay of the northern economy, especially in the area around Lofoten. In fact, the fish may have been the very first exported Norwegian product, dating back to the 12th century.
Wild cod taken from the cold and clear Arctic waters off the Norwegian coast provide unparalleled quality and freshness during the cod season. The fishermen who ply their trade along the northern coast of the country have been harvesting this healthy fish for over a thousand years, and the short distance between their historic fishing grounds and landing stations means fresher deliveries to the rest of the world.
Fresh Norwegian cod is being shaped into delicious new forms by some of the world’s leading chefs at contests such as the Bocuse d’Or.
Sea ranches and cod farms take advantage of the ice-cold currents of Norway’s fjords and coastal islands to produce fish that are characterized by a delicious, mild taste to the meat, resulting in a delicacy that is also a rich source of protein and vitamins.
A Sales Phenomenon
The marketplace is showing a huge increase in appetite for fresh Norwegian cod, particularly fish from sea ranches and farms. In the first half of 2006, sales of this seafood jumped an amazing 259% over the previous year. The top three consumers were the Netherlands, France and Spain, who collectively accounted for 69% of this market segment.
Over the past two years, the volume of export of farmed and sea ranched fresh cod has risen a dizzying 941%, with the overall farmed cod export value reaching NOK 135 million in 2006.
Commenting on the strong performance of cod in the export market, Tove Sleipnes of the Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC) cited three key elements. “Good marketing work, a favourable currency situation and high quality of raw goods are the main factors behind the positive export trend we are seeing for codfish,” she said on seafood.no, adding “The fishing industry has shown a tremendous ability to adapt to changes in the market and to procure products which are in demand and give a good price.”
Spain Hungry for Fresh Cod
Spain has shown the most dramatic growth as a market for fresh Norwegian cod. The nation has more than quadrupled imports of the fresh sea ranched or farmed fish. Effective marketing and promotions are thought to be behind the explosive growth. “The goal-oriented activities were expected to be effective,” said Arne Sorvig of the NSEC on its website, “but we see that they have a surprisingly large and fast effect. This tells us that Spaniards are ready for fresh Norwegian cod.” What’s more, the future looks bright in this market. Spaniards have the highest consumption of fresh seafood per capita in Europe, with whitefish making up a large portion of their diets.
Champagne, Gourmet Cooking & Cod TV
Creative promotions have underpinned the amazing growth in the popularity of fresh cod, especially in Europe. Famed Spanish chef Joakín Felipe of the restaurants “Urban”, “Europa Deco” and “Europa” did much to raise the profile of the seafood with “Cod and Champagne” month in Madrid. Diners had the chance to sample different cod dishes paired with just the right champagne. Delicacies included “Tartar of Cod” paired with a Veuve Cliquot Rose and “Rice with Cod, Spinach, Cauliflower and Sea Anemone” together with a Krug Brut sparkling wine.
In Germany as well, the knowledge that fresh Norwegian cod is available 365 days a year is being trumpeted. Head chefs at 300 German restaurants had the chance to experience the quality of fresh Norwegian sea ranched and farmed cod when the NSEC selected them to sample and work with the whitefish by shipping the seafood directly to them. In neighbouring Belgium’s capital of Brussels, it was “Live from Norway – it’s Cod TV”. This was an innovative marketing presentation created for Europe’s largest seafood convention, ESE. A satellite hookup with Stavanger was established, and large-screen television at the convention enabled visitors to see what’s involved in all aspects of delivering fresh cod from Norway to Europe, as well as ask experts from Norway about any and all issues relating to the seafood.
Fresh Norwegian cod is finding an increasing share of the growing world market and appetite for high-quality and healthy seafood that can be prepared in a wide variety of ways.
A Network of Experienced Suppliers
The centuries-old fishing tradition and expertise in Norway has created an extensive network of sea ranches, fish farms and fisheries that, together, are able to supply fresh cod to markets around the world each and every day of the year. Among the key players in this segment are Aalesand Seafood, which not only delivers cod, king crab and halibut, but as a subsidiary of Aalesand Shipping Group, the firm owns its own vessels. This gives the company greater control over quality.
Another important presence in this segment is Hallvard Lerøy AS. A part of the Lerøy Group, the company is based in Bergen and boasts an extensive supply network, including fresh fish plants, farms and packing stations. The company produces both fresh and frozen cod, salmon, trout, and pelagic fish.