Keeping Scottish salmon popular

The global salmon industry is never far from the news headlines, for both good and bad reasons. Current talk is of ISA outbreaks in Chile and Norway; of Chile introducing a new fisheries law to encourage a more joined-up and environmentally friendly way of farming salmon; of plant closure fears as global giant Marine Harvest integrates Morpol into its operations; and wrangling over the same company’s takeover plans for Cermaq. 

On the good side, U.K. trade figures just released show that once again, salmon is the largest food export from Scotland, with substantial overseas markets worth more than GBP 300 million (USD 463.9 million, EUR 354.5 million) per year.  In 2012, exports of fresh salmon totaled 78,086 metric tons (MT), the second highest level ever.

Notable importers among the 60 countries worldwide serving Scottish salmon are the U.S. and also France, where the product benefits from Label Rouge status, a prestigious quality mark granted by the French Ministry of Agriculture to products of superior quality and taste. 

Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, Irish Republic and Eastern Europe are also major importers of Scottish salmon and increasing volumes are being sold in the Far East. Here, exports increased by 64 percent between 2011 and 2012, while other emerging markets, especially BRICS countries, showed a year-on-year increase of 41 percent. 

Next week salmon is being heavily promoted in Hong Kong at the food and drink show HOFEX, where a team of Scottish chefs will be preparing dishes in the local style in a bid to attract new business. It is further being used, alongside Scottish langoustine, as the fish choice in the World Association of Chefs Societies Global Chefs Challenge, which takes in 93 different countries. Sponsorship of this competition will see Scottish salmon being promoted to more than 10 million chefs around the world.

Scottish provenance has played a large part in building the export trade, helped by the product’s protected geographical indication status (forbidding sale of foreign-caught salmon under the label “Scottish salmon”) and the premium taste, quality and character of the fish, according to the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organization (SSPO).

Nielsen Scantrack 52 data shows that salmon is also the most popular fish on the retail counter in the U.K.  Total fresh salmon sales of 36,291 MT were worth GBP 611.7 million in the year to the end of March 2013, with value up by 9.6 percent and volume up by 14 percent.

Smoked salmon also remains very strong and well ahead of the overall market, with year-on-year value up 9.8 percent and volume up 13.1 percent, on sales of 9,189 MT worth GBP 191,519 (USD 295,993, EUR 226,278).  Trade has been helped significantly by price and “buy one, get one free” promotions in the major retailers. 

SSPO points out that consumer demands have shifted to place greater emphasis on convenience and health, and salmon fits the bill perfectly.

But what makes Scottish salmon a good product?  Scott Landsburgh, CEO of SSPO says that the Scottish salmon farming industry is the most tightly regulated aquaculture industry in the world and that 98 percent of Scottish salmon farmers participate in its independently audited Code of Good Practice, all of which gives retailers confidence to stock the product. 

For consumers seeking labels, there is the reassurance of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Freedom Food label, with 70 percent of Scottish production currently under this scheme. The RSPCA is currently working to encourage greater uptake and forecasts that 90 percent of Scottish farmed salmon will participate in the stringent animal welfare scheme by 2014. 

Add forthcoming ASC certification for salmon, for which a number of Scottish farms have already signed up, and this fish would seem to come with an impeccable pedigree.  It won’t however, stop its opponents, particularly the fishing lobby, from constantly attacking the industry, but that ongoing story is for another day.


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