Norwegian trout is an appealing fish with its characteristic red colour, firm flesh and fine texture. It is the perfect choice for the health conscious consumer: The fish meat is relatively lean due to the fact that most of the fat is contained in the paunch and easily disposed of. The Norwegian trout has a high nutritional value. It is rich in protein and omega 3 acids, and also contains vitamins A, D and B12. And last but not least: It tastes delicious!
The secret behind the unique quality is partly due to the high standards of production. Dedicated and knowledgeable producers have developed special methods over the past 30 years. The natural environment is also a big factor, and the cold, northern fjords are the perfect habitat for Norwegian trout.
Labelling, a Sign of the Times
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware and interested in what they eat and where it originated. Labelling is still quite new within the seafood industry, but is definitely a trend on the rise – and Norwegian trout is in the forefront of that trend. “There isn’t a lot of labelling of red fish, so this is exciting news and a sign of the times,” Marketing Manager Marit Sogn-Grundvåg at the Norwegian Seafood Export Council comments.
In the course of 2010 a new quality standard and label for fresh, Norwegian trout from aquaculture will be in place. The NSEC has cooperated with the Norwegian trout industry and Standards Norway to develop the new quality standard, and a brand name for Norwegian trout will be part of the package.
The quality standard is meant to show that Norwegian trout is of premium quality, and only the best trout can be labelled. According to Sogn-Grundvåg, the producers have to sign an agreement with the NSEC to follow the standard’s strict criteria in addition to submitting to independent, third party checks. Some of the requirements are that the trout be over 2 kilograms, have the right colour red and the customary shiny skin.
Labelling will ensure that consumers get the same excellent quality every time they buy Norwegian trout, and they will be able to depend upon the fish living up to their high expectations. It will also make it easier for consumers to find a good product again – which that can be a challenge if it isn’t marked. And experience shows that consumers actually prefer quality labelled products ahead of their unlabelled counterparts, even if they cost more.
The NSEC has had great results with another Norwegian speciality, Skrei. Making a quality standard and labelling the premium quality cod as Skrei has given it a clear advantage in a highly competitive market. It is now a recognizable and desirable product, and many consumers are willing to pay more for the exclusivity of Skrei being a quality labelled product.
One effect of quality labelling will be to give Norwegian trout an independent identity so that it doesn’t get confused with other trout or salmon. The NSEC believes that the focus on Norwegian trout will draw attention to the excellent quality of other Norwegian products, as well. The hope is that that Norwegian trout will complement Norwegian salmon instead of competing with it, and ultimately lead to higher sales of both products. “There is enough place for both Norwegian trout and salmon in the market, and a larger focus on Norwegian trout will act as a positive contribution to increase the whole red fish category,” Marit Sogn-Grundvåg explains.
Big in Russia
Russia is by far the largest export market for Norwegian trout, and in 2009 the total amount was NOK 1.1 billion NOK, which is 58% of the total export of trout. “Russian consumers really like lightly salted and smoked products of both trout and salmon. The Russian market for trout has grown markedly in just a few years, making it clear that Norwegian trout is appreciated,” says Marit Sogn-Gundvåg.
But there is still the great potential for growth, and one of the most interesting regions now, is Europe.
Looking to Europe
A decade ago the NSEC and the Norwegian trout industry were working towards getting trout out to the European market. The initial figures were very positive, but all efforts came to a halt in the autumn of 2004 when the EEC slapped an import tax on Norwegian trout, effectively pricing it out of the market. Now that the import tax has been lifted, the NSEC is once again looking towards exporting Norwegian trout to Europe.
Several surveys have been conducted, and the feedback from European chefs has been that Norwegian trout is of very good quality in regards to both taste and texture. The chefs also noted that it was a versatile product, which could be prepared in innumerable ways: either eaten raw, as sushi, tartar or carpaccio, steamed, fried or smoked.
And they are not the only ones to be impressed by Norwegian trout. Japanese chefs are born experts on sushi and sashimi and know that only the very best seafood can be eaten raw. They were the first to discover Norwegian trout some three decades ago, and have kept on eating it ever since. In 2009 they imported NOK 167.5 million of the quality fish.
Other discerning connoisseurs have also given Norwegian trout their stamp of approval. In 2003 the Norwegian chef Charles Tjessem won the Bocuse d’Or, and Norwegian trout had the prestigious honour of being the main ingredient.
With such impressive advocates coupled with a brand new quality label, Norwegian trout is ready to once again take its place in the European market.