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Shrimp Producer is Focusing on Sushi From Cod

Coldwater Prawns of Norway AS from Ålesund has had great success out in the world with their Norwegian cold water shrimp. They have also reaped praise and honor for their innovative work, most recently being picked as Norway’s business of the year for 2014. Now, the company has turned its sights toward new horizons, toward the sushi industry. With patented, homespun packaging and products, they’re going to conquer the world with sushi from Norwegian cod.

Cod is not a new species for Coldwater Prawns of Norway. Now, however, more and more of the cod will be sent as frozen merchandize to Vietnam to be processed into sushi, packaged and released as an exclusive quality product at a relatively high price, and with the entire world as a market.

Japanese business partner

-We have entered into a partnership with a large Japanese company, Okamura, which has three factories in Vietnam for the production of sushi toppings from trout and salmon. They now produce our sushi products from Norwegian cod, which are packed in exclusively designed boxes and bags. We have also entered into a partnership with the same company for sales in Japan and the United States, where Okamura already is prominent as far as sushi from salmon and trout go. All cod used in sushi is fished by our own boats, says CEO Knut Helge Vestre.

He has great faith in the company’s new product, and he also has great faith in the future of sushi. Sushi markets have grown immensely around the world.  This is just the beginning of a trend, according to CEO Knut Helge Vestre.  Japan has great expertise when it comes to sushi and Vietnam’s expertise lie in production. Thus the cooperation with Okamura simplified the process.

Vestre has still spent a lot of time on development and design. They have created a finished concept of trademark, registered sushi from cod which is ready for sale in the stores freezers along with other sushi items like sashimi, sushi or tapas products. They have also made packages for deliveries to producers of finished sushi trays, to restaurants and hotels. The new product is already present in Norway, for example in Coop Norway’s stores, and the response in the domestic market has so far been very good. Now the rest of the world market is next.

Sells 100% Norwegian shrimp

Coldwater Prawns of Norway is, as the name implies, first and foremost known as a manufacturer of Norwegian shrimp. That means that the entire chain of events, from capture to sale is Norwegian. CEO Vestre emphasizes that they today are the country’s largest producer of shrimp. The company is also the only one in the world to only sell 100 percent Norwegian shrimp. Also worth noting is that the prawns are MSC, KRAV and Friends of the sea certified.

-It is extremely important when it comes to marketing that producers are not using Norway’s trademark logo on shrimp from other areas, but that are not 100 percent Norwegian. This is crucial if Norway is to avoid remaining as a pure raw material producer. That also applies to seafood products other than shrimp. I mean that in order to be able to use the Norwegian brand logo, the product must be fished by Norwegian boats in Norwegian waters and be produced at Norwegian plants by Norwegian companies. Then the whole value chain, from capture to sale is Norwegian, ensures a unique product that no one can take from you, says the dedicated CEO.

Biting our own tale

-This is not the situation today, but this is the way it will have to be if Norway is going to survive as a seafood nation. If not we will end up biting our own tale and become a threat to our own existence and thereby losing out on the unique concept. The same applies to the white fish sector. If you are unable to call attention to what is unique, you lose out on price in all the markets. For shrimp, this is extra important. If we do not manage to build a brand name for shrimp this will soon be an industry for the few, and Norway will have lost out, Vestre continues.

He mentions as an example of the importance of maintaining what is uniquely Norwegian, by comparing the Norwegian cold water shrimp with the shrimp being fished by Canada in their waters. These shrimp have the same Latin name, Pandalus Borealis. But there are still major differences. Canadian shrimp are caught in shallow water and they have a completely different color, taste, and consistency than the Norwegian counterpart. Norwegian shrimp is fished in much deeper, colder water. Because of that they grow slower and therefore have firmer meat in addition to being redder in appearance and sweeter in taste.

The world’s cleanest product

-In other words one this is one of the world’s purest products “says Knut Helge West. The company’s sales manager, Adelaide Stenevik agrees. She adds that some of the markets are fully aware of this difference, and are willing to pay more for Norwegian shrimp, while still others are completely unaware of this.

When mentioning Canada, it is worth noting that it is not only in the consistency, color, and taste that they differ, it is also in sheer volume. Norway is a very small player compared to the giant in the West when it comes to shrimp. Last year approximately 6,500 ton of Norwegian shrimp were fished by Norwegian boats in the Barents Sea. The Canadian boats fished the same volume in a month. With such differences, it is extra important to highlight the Norwegian brand name and emphasize that the products are 100 percent Norwegian.

When we visited Coldwater Prawns of Norway’s main office in Ålesund in May, the company was content with its own situation. The operation is going well, the market for Norwegian cold water shrimp is good and the price for shrimp is high. Norwegian shrimp was selling for approximately 23 kroner per kilo while the Canadian shrimp was getting 10-12 kroner per kilo.

Large cod population is bad for business

But Norwegian shrimp fishing in the Barents Sea has been poor for a long period because the shrimp have been frightened and therefore scattered over large areas. This of course makes them hard to catch. Knut Helge Vestre believes the huge amount of cod in the area is the main reason. The fishing has been so bad that there are two Norwegian shrimp trawlers that long ago gave up commercial shrimp fishing and turned to other kinds of fishing. The CEO sees no short term solution to the situation. But he does not complain, since the market is good and the prices are good. The demand for Norwegian shrimp is particularly good in large parts of Europe and Asia.

-It is an advantage to be small when the raw material situation is as it is at the present, “says Knut Helge Western in Coldwater Prawns of Norway AS. He adds that the company does well financially in terms of both sales and profit. The bottom line, according to him could have been better, but it has a lot to do with the use of funds for future development.

This year the CEO expects to reach a turnover of 350-360 million dollars, not including the shrimp factory in Senjahopen in northern Norway. Senjahopen is singled out as a separate company with a 160-170 million in annual turnover and approximately 22 employees. But the whole administration is run from the head office in Ålesund, where there are five employees.

Finally it is worth mentioning that at Innovation Norway’s award ceremony June 3rd Coldwater Prawns of Norway received the business of the year award. And it is not the first honorable distinction for the company either. In 2012 Coldwater Prawns of Norway was picked as the Gazelle Company of the year in Norway, and was at the same time as fourth for the entire country. It is also worth noting that it is the first time ever that a seafood company has received Norway’s business of the year award.

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