In marketing and product design, the coffee industry can be a good example for producers of herring. (Photo: Audun Iversen, Nofima)
Could lessons from coffee and potato industries help herring producers?
Friday, January 20, 2012, 00:40 (GMT + 9)
A researcher has been studying successful food products like potatoes and coffee to see whether the profitability of herring and mackerel can be improved.
Although Norway’s yearly output of herring and mackerel is about 1 million tonnes, producers are left with little to show in terms of earnings per kg of fish.
Conversely, various other food products have seen increased success after their industries decided to boost values. The Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund has thus commissioned Nofima to analyse how this could be applied to herring and mackerel.
"If the herring and mackerel industry can devise new strategies that break through, there could be a lot of money involved", said Audun Iversen, research scientist at Nofima Mat, the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research.
Norwegians mainly eat herring pickled as a sandwich topping. Extending the range of herring products would be a way to mimic all the successful producers in the study.
|Today more than fifty different varieties of potato can be found in Norwegian shops during the course of the year. (Photo: Audun Iversen, Nofima)
The coffee industry focuses on the product's country of origin and its story and how this gives coffee its unique flavour characteristics. These coffee beans are then sold in a wide range of different types and packs at a higher price – without extra processing.
Between 1995-2005, chicken went from grilled, frozen marinaded or whole frozen to being available as a sandwich topping, sausages, breaded products, fresh tray-packed products and in semi-finished form. Norwegians went from eating 4 kg of chicken a year to 16.
"This shows that a greater variety in the shops gets people to eat more", said Iversen.
Potato producers made their product seem exciting by teaching consumers to use different types for different purposes. Today on average there are between 10 and 20 potato varieties in the shops year-round with information on possible uses and tasting notes.
"If you want to extend the range, you must understand the customers' needs and preferences", noted Iversen.
"Norwegian consumers think that the most important things about a food product are that it should taste good, that it is easy to prepare and that it is healthy and eco-friendly. Those last two ease people's consciences, but they are not as important as the flavour and ease of preparation", he continued.
|Pickled herring, as it usually appears on Norwegian tables. (Photo: Audun Iversen, Nofima)
But herring consumers abroad have other preferences. In Russia and Eastern Europe, herring comes in more varieties.
As tastes and preferences can widely diverge from region to region, many small and varied markets exist about which information is lacking -- so products cannot be tailored for them, Iversen said.
For Norwegian producers, it is mainly a case of facilitating processing, production and retail sales abroad.
Another successful tactic is how awareness of high product quality allows a product to stand out.
Many consumers pay more for high quality products with exotic names. The challenge is to ensure the products consistently deliver the same quality.
"It is important for the industry to cement relations further into the value chain, closer to the supermarkets and consumers. The more demanding the customers are, the more they can contribute to developing the industry", concluded Iversen.
By Natalia Real