The statistics do not lie. Record demand for Atlantic salmon in 2008 – despite the less than conducive financial climate – resulted in an additional 22,000 tonnes exported as compared to the previous year. Trout similarly had major successes, particularly in Russia and Japan, its value increasing by some 48% in the same time frame. France, the largest beneficiary of Norwegian salmon, heads a list of 98 countries worldwide that enjoy the Norwegian fish. Marine Harvest’s Jørgen Christiansen believes that the food’s healthy reputation is a factor in its popularity. “The success of salmon is due to convenience, taste and increased awareness about health issues,” he says, adding, “With the high content of Omega 3, Salmon has documented positive effects on cardiovascular diseases (hearth and circulation), inflammatory disease, cancer, mental health and the behaviour and development of children.” It is advice that translates into marked increases in demand.
Many countries around the world have found Norwegian seafood to be an ideal partner for existing seafood traditions. In some areas, Norwegian seafood has even become a tradition in of itself. Take Stoccafisso di Norvegia, for example. Each autumn, great quantities of stockfish from the mid-Norwegian region of Lofoten arrive in Italy for festivals where it is eaten as a prize delicacy. The tradition, also prevalent in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Brazil, is usually known “Bacalao”, which literally means “cod” in Spanish, but tends to refer to salted cod or stockfish.
Well over 90% of the 3,800 tonnes of stockfish exported from the Lofoten region finds its way to Italy. The tradition, allegedly begun by the Spanish at the Bay of Biscay (New Foundland) in the 14th century, has now been imbued with a distinctly Norwegian flavour, owing to advanced technology and production methods championed by companies such as the Lofoten Stockfish Company, Brødrene Sperre AS and Lofoten Seaford Export AS. These companies draw on a thousand year old Norwegian tradition, which encompasses the harvesting and drying of fish, and has resulted in centuries old Norwegian specialities like Lutefisk, making them ideal partners for this very particular Italian speciality.
Festivals & Fish
In Lithuania, Norwegian seafood is so highly regarded that a whole week has been dedicated to it. In Vilnius, the Norwegian Fish Week, an annual event now in its seventh year, Norwegian seafood is flown in from Lerøy, whilst award-winning Norwegian chef Kristoffer Hovland provides his expertise in the preparation of a range of innovative seafood dishes: scallops, halibut, salmon and smoked cod. The event is hosted by Norwegian-owned Reval Hotel Lietuva, and has achieved such popularity locally that it now takes place in a second Lithuanian city, Kaunas.
However the Lithuanians are far from being alone in their admiration for Norwegian seafood. Russia remains the single largest market for Norwegian companies. Seafood exports to Russia in 2008 set a new record for the fifth year running, reaching a value of 39,1 billion NOK. It is hardly surprising that, as in Lithuania and Italy, traditions have also begun springing up here too. Festivals are not an uncommon sight here: the Mariott Royal Aurora Hotel in Moscow has hosted Norwegian Seafood Festivals, in conjunction with the Norwegian Seafood Export Council, involving Norwegian chefs creating delicacies and delivering master classes. Elsewhere in Russia, the spring annual pancake festival, Maslennitsa, increasingly uses Norwegian fish: salmon and trout are highly popular choices.
In France, too, Norwegian fish is king. The prestigious Bocuse d’Or festival – effectively the culinary world championships – uses Norwegian fresh cod, wild prawns and king scallops as its officially supplied products, and in Japan, Norwegian fish is now the preferred choice in the preparation of traditional sushi. Because of the purity of Norwegian farmed salmon, there is no need to freeze it before preparation – and this fact alone goes some way to explaining its popularity. Japanese cooks also use Norwegian salmon in dishes such as teriyaki and sashimi, flown weekly from Norway so that they remain fresh.
It is a well-known fact that the ice-cold fjords and seas surrounding Norway’s seemingly endless coast are ideal for a diversity of marine life rarely seen elsewhere. But taking those raw materials and turning them into quality products abroad takes unique expertise.
That said, where there is a fish, there is a way. Companies such as Tromsø-based Ice Fish AS specializes in frozen white fish to markets throughout Europe and Canada. Coast Seafood AS sends salmon, trout, cod and more as far away as China, Japan, the Philippines and Mexico. There is barely a country not reached by Norwegian giants, such as Grieg Seafood ASA and Marine Harvest ASA, and barely an edible fish left unrepresented by a Norwegian company. Oysters from Hallvard Lerøy AS and Norway Royal Salmon AS, dried fish from Lofoten Seafood Export AS, wolfish from the Norsk Sjømat Group or crab from Norfra AS – the list of examples is endless. Whilst Norway is a country steeped in seafood history, thanks to record exports more and more countries around the world have the chance to make their own “Norwegian” traditions using the very best ingredients.