It is 20 years since the Norwegian Seafood Council began a modest program to encourage Skrei Cod exports. Today Skrei cod has become a known and loved product across Europe and Norway exported in 2016 quality-marked Skrei worth NOK 186 million. An increase of NOK 52 million compared with 2015.
Sales of fresh cod, including Skrei cod and filet, have so far this year totalled NOK 1.39 billion, up NOK 203 million or 17 per cent compared with the same period last year.
”This year's season has exceeded all expectations and export figures are strong. With average prices of NOK 36.10 per kilo, export values are NOK 5.93 higher than during the same period in 2015. This year saw NOK 5.39 more for a kg of quality mark Skrei cod, compared with whole fresh cod. This year export receipts are NOK 8.30 higher for Skrei cod, which is good news for anyone who works with quality marked Skrei cod”, says Jack Robert Møller, Industry Manager for cod fish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.
After an unusually early start to the fishing season in 2014, 2016 was more of a "normal" year. Quotas were large and the availability has been good, with record landings of cod in March. 10-15% of cod caught between 1 January and 30 April were sorted and packaged according to the quality standard for Skrei cod, and thereby attained the exclusive quality mark.
”Extensive checks have been carried out on the quality of cod products. The Skrei cod patrol collected 139 samples from production facilities and transhipment centres. More than half of the licensed packers are inspected. The general impression is that quality standards have been maintained”, says Marit Sogn Grundvåg, Head of Quality Branding with the Norwegian Seafood Council.
Cod party in Madrid
Quality-marked Skrei cod is sold in approximately 20 countries. Key markets (excluding Norway, which takes about a third of the total volume), are Spain, France and Germany. Sweden is also an important market for quality marked Skrei cod.
”Denmark reigns supreme has the leading export market, but much of the cod that are sold to Denmark are passed on to other EU countries”, says Jack Robert Møller.
Møller spent substantial amounts of time in England during this season. Amongst other things, he has taught the English to prepare traditional ”jumble”, with quite a bit of help from "the grandmothers of Husøy."
”However, this year's undoubted highlight was the "House of Skrei Cod" in Spain. We celebrated the 20-year anniversary of Norway´s first efforts to promote Skrei cod in Spain. The popular food market Mercado de San Ildefonso in Madrid was transformed into a Skrei cod market for one day. Each of the vendors arrayed across three floors served a unique Skrei cod dish, and the market was decorated with Skrei cod posters and images of northern Norway, says Møller.
The Norwegian Seafood Council has worked actively to strengthen Skrei cod´s position in the European and North American markets. Major commemorative events have been arranged for all the major markets.
”Quality-marked Skrei cod is very strong in Spain, and this season has been a great success. A record number of players in Spain have been involved in the initiative. Nearly 4,000 stores and more than 800 restaurants have received promotional material from the Norwegian Seafood Council. In addition, the supermarkets themselves have done a very good job to promote quality-marked Skrei cod. We have been able to add to this considerable media coverage, so the result is that more and more people know what Skrei cod is. Our recent survey shows that 42% of Spaniards have heard of Skrei cod. These numbers are good, but we must continue working so that more people are actively choosing quality marked Skrei Cod when visiting stores”, says Fisheries Delegate, Hilde Gunn Fure Osmundsvåg.
The Norwegian Seafood Council are constantly striving to increase the awareness of quality-marked Skrei cod out in the markets.
”In 2013, 7 per cent of Swedes had heard of Skrei cod. That figure is now 57 per cent of the population. The figures for the German market are no less gratifying, where half the population - 40 million people – know about Skrei cod, and a third of the population knows that Skrei cod is Norwegian. Through press tours with journalists to the winter fisheries in the north, cookery courses for journalists with star chefs. A variety of small and big stories placed in the German media secured cod journalistic coverage worth an NOK 32 million. This is how much it would have cost us to buy the equivalent advertising space,” says Moller.
A focus on quality
The quality labeling scheme introduced for cod in recent years has created a flagship for the Norwegian cod industry. Since 2006, the quality requirements for Skrei cod to be marked with the prized quality mark has been officially defined as a Norwegian Standard. This standard creates a predictable level of quality which consumers can expect when purchasing quality marked Skrei cod.
71 manufacturers have been licensed for quality-marked Skrei cod this season, which represents an increase of 11 from 2015. 44 exporters were licensed in 2016.
”Ensuring quality increases the workload for packers. Each fish must be evaluated, quality-marked and packaged according to the standard. However, the willingness of the market to pay more for quality-marked Skrei cod is sufficient to cover these extra costs,” says adviser Amund Bråthen with the Norwegian Seafood Council.
”The story of cod that swim the equivalent distance of Oslo to Rome to spawn is still a wonderful story that captivates people. The Norwegian Skrei cod has many of the special qualities that characterize a long-distance swimmer, and this makes it a sought after item for the dinner table for anyone who appreciates seafood quality”, said Jack Robert Møller.