Innovation Norway on getting the market right
By Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris
25 April, 2012
Market orientation is at the heart of Innovation Norway’s strategy to boost business for the country’s seafood exporters. “Our mission is to prepare the right Norwegian seafood products to the export market. We export 90 percent of our fish,” said Petter Ustad, sector manager seafood at Innovation Norway.
On Day 2 of the European Seafood Exposition, Ustad talks to SeafoodSource about how the government-funded structure is helping to shape business.
Partos: How important is innovation for the Norwegian seafood sector?
Ustad: It’s incredibly important. Norway is a high-cost country. Wages are high, and to compete in the international marketplace we have to deliver a high-value product that the consumer prefers, because we need a higher income.
We have natural advantages — a long coast with access to oceans, which gives us opportunities in fisheries and aquaculture. We think that when the oil and gas runs out in Norway in perhaps 100 years, we need to have done something more with our seafood.
We need to look at how to make value-added products and to do more with our raw materials. We should try to produce products with more value. This is a challenge because geographically Norway is distant from the markets, and the consumer wants more and more fresh, high-quality products. We need to improve distribution, shelf life and to cooperate with the retailers and market players in general. They can tell us how they want delivery, the frequency. We’re here to listen to the market and find out their needs.
There are a lot of challenges. Fishing vessels in Norway range from 10 meters to 100 meters, and there are many rules that look after the small fishermen, who are very important to the country. At Innovation Norway, we’re trying to support small, remote locations to keep the livelihoods of the local fishermen going.
How does Innovation Norway support the seafood sector?
One way has been by supporting workers at the seafood companies to complete university programs in market orientation and brand building. To date we’ve seen over 200 graduates complete in six years. Participants hail from small firms to big firms, like Marine Harvest and Leroy. One reason for this move is that strategic work on the sector has revealed that while we’re very good at production, and good at selling, we’re not as strong in securing long-term relations with retailers in the market. We try to motivate Norwegian companies to take responsibility all the way to the market, and beyond.
In terms of distribution, Innovation Norway recently funded a project to increase the quality and productivity in the seafood supply chain. The project has developed a new standard for labeling fish crates and pallets, a bar code electronic reading – one code – to be standardized across the country for fast traceability.
What are the biggest challenges for the sector?
Improving market orientation, implementing unique strategies for each company and acute awareness of markets are key to getting the right products to the export market. In Norway there 650 farms, and all of them export fish.
25 April, 2012