Norway Seafoods has high hopes to land more of its “Skrei” cod on the shelves of Chinese retailers.
The group has been in discussions with Chinese retailers – together with the Norwegian Seafood Council [NSC) – for the last 18 months to increase the eastern export flow of the luxury product, said Frode Mikkelsen, director of sales and marketing.
“We’ve been working together for about a year and a half now, and this is the first year we’ve tried to launch Skrei products in China,” he told Undercurrent News.
Mikkelsen said it was “a bit too early to tell” whether the promotional push had been a complete success – exact sales figures are yet to be extrapolated – but the vital signs look good.
Norway Seafoods – Norway’s largest whitefish processor – has already secured a deal with “a chain in Shanghai”, to stock premium Norwegian seasonal cod on its shelves.
“China is proving to be a really interesting market for us,” he said. “Skrei is a high quality, natural and healthy product, produced in Norway with a good storyline, where they can trust the product that is packed.”
Just as it has done in its other campaigns to promote Skrei in other international markets – particularly in the UK, where exports of the cod shot up by 200% year-on-year for January and February – the NSC has contributed significantly to selling the “good storyline” alluded to by Mikkelsen.
“Just like we have done in the UK market, we have worked very closely with the NSC,” he said. “They are responsible for all the all the television campaigns and global media that helps promote the product. From what we’ve seen, the story of Skrei, as a high-quality, healthy and natural product, seems to be of interest to China.”
Alongside the more adventurous palates of China’s burgeoning middle class, which has contributed to the rise of EU fish exports to the Asian nation in recent years, Skrei being a finished ‘made in Norway’ product adds to its appeal.
“For many, many years, we got used to the idea of China buying whole Norwegian fish for processing, then selling it back to the European market,” said Mikkelsen.
“But, we want to do something more with the fish. We want to offer the Chinese consumers finished goods produced in Norway. The market for this – and other European products, too – is definitely growing.”
Mikkelsen also verified comments made by his CEO Thomas Farstad to Undercurrent last month, which described a sluggish start to the Skrei season.
“You have to remember, too, that the Skrei season this year started rather late; it didn’t really get going until the beginning of week six,” he explained.
“But there is still some Skrei fishing going on. Last weekend, there was also the Skrei fishing world championship in Lofoten.”
Norway Seafoods is scheduled to exhibit at the Seafood Expo Global show in Brussels, Belgium, later this month.
Mikkelsen declined to comment on whether the group could follow in the footsteps of compatriot companies SalMar, Leroy Seafood Group and Cermaq, who have all pulled out of the event in the wake of the recent terror attacks to hit the city, but said a press release on its decision can be expected later this week.