UK warms to frozen-at-sea cod from Norway

A new program aimed at elevating U.K. consumers’ perception of frozen-at-sea (FAS) cod through the country’s highly influential fish-and-chip trade has been launched by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).

Through “Union Norge,” NSC hopes to capitalize on the country’s growing cod consumption trend and the fact that most U.K. fish-and-chip shops are increasingly relying upon FAS fillets at some stage during the year by appointing ambassadors from the trade to promote Norwegian FAS fish.

Norwegian exports of FAS cod fillet blocks to the U.K. market have grown fivefold over the past three years to 5,000 metric tons (MT).
An initial 56 ambassadors from all around the country have been recruited to the program with the help of leading FAS fish distributors. Each business has a track record of selling high-quality fish and chips and a history of supplying FAS fish. The ambassadors were unveiled at a special reception in London.

The United Kingdom is now the world’s biggest cod market, consuming up to 300,000 MT of the white fish per year, 75,000 MT more than second-placed Portugal, said Jack-Robert Moller, NSC director for the United Kingdom. Furthermore, around 75 percent of all the cod consumed by Brits is battered and fried, he said.

The United Kingdom has also become the largest growth market for Norwegian seafood. Last year, its imports of Norwegian seafood products totaled 130,159 MT, up 22 percent on the previous year. These imports had a value of  NOK 4 billion (EUR 461.6 million; USD 499.4 million), an increase of 1.2 percent.

“That growth trend has continued into this year and by the end of February, the UK had become the main market for Norwegian whitefish and salmon,” said Moller.

In 2014, the United Kingdom imported 23,082 MT of Norwegian cod, which represented an increase of 33 percent on the previous year. The value of this trade was around NOK 600 million (EUR 69.2 million/USD 74.9 million).

Union Norge’s objectives for the rest of this year and beyond include making Norwegian cod a more prominent brand by communicating provenance, the way the fishery is managed and how FAS fish are caught and quickly processed — all based around the core message of “locked in freshness.”

It is also hoped that these messages will encourage consumers to opt for fish and chips instead of choosing other foodservice offerings in what is a “highly competitive” market, said Moller.

A website that includes the locations of all the ambassadors will be launched next month and will be followed by two loyalty schemes — in May and September — as well as a number of competitions. Union Norge will also aim to establish a bond between consumers and Norwegian fishermen through inshop visuals.

“This is a starting point for something great. It is a program that we can build up together and expand with new ideas over the coming years,” said Moller.


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