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Texas steak chain puts Norwegian salmon front and center

The US market for frozen salmon portions has been challenging, but a campaign by the Norwegian Seafood Council and Nordic Group is raising the product's profile.

Trondheim-based Nordic Group and the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) have pulled off something of a coup: getting farmed salmon not just on a steakhouse menu, but getting marquis billing.

The groups wrangled a six-week campaign at US restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse with the slogan "Proudly serving Norwegian salmon," a message carried across the group's 550 restaurants.

Nordic Group introduced salmon on the menu at Texas Roadhouse 20 years ago and last year invited the Norwegian Seafood Council to help facilitate a generic campaign for Norwegian salmon in the chain.

"In cooperation with the Nordic Group and Texas Roadhouse [Norwegian Seafood Council] has developed a concept that lifts up the Norwegian origin and helps to associate positive associations with Norway with the products," Terje Korsnes, general manager of Nordic Group in Boston and the main shareholder in Nordic Group Trondheim, told Intrafish.

"The development of such a concept takes a long time and in this case has stood out, despite significant turmoil in the market in general with increasing salmon prices."

NSC's representative in the United States, Egil Ove Sundheim, said developing program buying relationships are a long game.

"[Companies] must be willing to invest time in relationships, expertise and logistics," he said.

Norway a growing player in the United States

The US market for imported Atlantic salmon grew 1.3 percent last year in volume terms, with distribution as follows, according to NSC statistics:

  • Fresh whole: 110,280 metric tons (up 2 percent)
  • Frozen whole: 2,937 metric tons (up 30 percent)
  • Fresh fillets: 130,838 metric tons  (up 4 percent)
  • Frozen fillets: 38,722 metric tons ( down 9 percent)

The market in general is dominated by Chilean and Canadian product. Canada holds 71 percent of the fresh whole market share, while Chile dominates fillets with a 70 percent market share in fresh and 73 percent share in frozen. Norway has grown its share in the fillet market, with 15 percent and 22 percent respectively, of the fresh and frozen fillet market, up from 13 percent and 10 percent in 2015.

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Despite Norway's growth in market share, the market has been a challenge for portions. Korsnes maintains that despite the fact the frozen portion market is struggling, it is a segment with significant potential.

"In the United States a large portion of seafood consumption is through restaurant segments, but salmon still has limited presence on many menus -- especially in segments where the great and important millennium generation often eat," said Korsnes.

"In recent years there has been a significant challenge in getting in position purely related to the high salmon prices, but over time salmon producers have considerable potential also in regional and medium-sized chains.

"To get in position here must Norwegian actors need to be present in the market and have products tailored to the needs of the chain. There is considerable potential in being able to expand with some of the emerging concepts if one is willing to invest in logistics, market expertise and product development. Presence is the key word."

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