KANSAS CITY - Salmon industry leader Mowi has over 50 years of experience producing and processing farmed Atlantic salmon that’s widely available across North America, said Diana Dumet, marketing director of Medley, Fla.-based Mowi USA.

Mowi also offers a wide range of salmon products from fresh and never frozen cuts ready to cook, breaded salmon fillets shipped frozen, frozen indulgent products like salmon pastries and, in the smoked seafood range, cold-smoked and hot-smoked products.

And that mix is constantly expanding, Dumet said, to meet ever-evolving consumer needs.

“From traditional cuts sold over the retailer seafood counters, Mowi has evolved to offer a wide range of pre-packed salmon offerings,” she said.

In Mowi’s fresh, never frozen product lineup, for instance, the roster has expanded from traditional cuts to different size cuts, pre-cuts ready to cook, applied seasonings, BBQ items on a cedar plank and even salmon cuts with flavored butters.

Mowi has also expanded its frozen line, where salmon is applied to pastries, dippable bites and appetizers. Other categories have emerged where salmon is the center of the line, but the Fresh Never Frozen ready-to-cook cuts continue to have the most significant retail space and expansion opportunities, Dumet said.

Traditional Atlantic Salmon Portions of 4, 5 and 6 ounces are the most common, but the 30-ounce fillets are also great items, particularly for families, she added.

“Salmon continues to grow. The more consumers get more comfortable with seafood in general and salmon cooking techniques, salmon will become more important in meals.”

Even during the pandemic, Mowi has been able to fulfill orders to customers thanks to the capacity of its facilities in North America, which produce tons of seafood on a weekly basis, Dumet said.

“The freight network and distribution presented challenges, but in the end, we were able to have a flawless execution from sea to retail,” she said. “The surge and demand for healthy food grew this year. Consumers are interested in eating healthier and perhaps exploring new food alternatives to increase their immune system and wellbeing in general.”

In fact, Mowi was even able to introduce a new brand during the pandemic: MOWI, which is being sold online via Amazon.

“Following the launch of MOWI Salmon in the online grocery in March, the brand has expanded with more variety and everyday price points,” Dumet said. “The earlier incubation of MOWI in the US market has targeted online grocery shoppers and will continue through next year.”

Mowi’s MOWI Gourmet line has created a space for premium quality salmon with cuts that are brand-new for at home-preparation, Dumet said.

“It’s wowed US consumers with the taste, quality and freshness, normally only found in high end restaurants but now made accessible at home.”

And shipping under the MOWI Essential line is a selection of more traditional cuts and generous sized portions. Sold at more consumer-friendly price points, the line still delivers excellent quality from all three of Mowi’s salmon sources: Canada, Chile and Norway.  

Retail resurgence

Anne-Kristine Øen, US director of the Norwegian Seafood Council, said Norwegian salmon shippers were pleased that during the pandemic, volumes from Norway to the United States fell just 5% — and that the value of exports actually climbed 2%.

“We’re happy it’s down more than 5%,” she said. “Salmon is not being sold to foodservice anymore. Instead of whole fish, which is what restaurants want, we’re sending many more filets.”

Much of that is going to industry heavyweights like Costco and other retailers who are turning to Norwegian salmon because of the high quality due to the cold waters in which fish are raised, Øen said.

“The industry has made big leaps in the past 15 years, so now it’s a really fantastic product,” she said.

The popular perception is that people eat seafood in restaurants but not at home. The Norwegian Seafood Council and the suppliers it represents have always that was a mistake, measuring value instead of volume.

“You hear that 70% of fish is eaten outside of the home, but that’s because it’s so much more costly in a restaurant,” Øen said. “People eat more at home.”

That’s particularly true of salmon.

“Salmon is so versatile, you can dress it for any occasion,” she said. “It’s the most popular fish in the world. I’m happy — and a little surprised — to see that people are buying it in grocery stores. And we’re optimistic that that will continue post-pandemic.”

Fish welfare, not just health, is also more important now, and another reason retailers are choosing Norwegian salmon, Øen said.

“We’re in the midst of a global pandemic that’s the result of not handling food properly,” she said. “People are acutely aware of the connection.”

But it’s not enough, she said, to keep delivering the same messages over and over.

“If you invite people to something where you’re talking about sustainability, people fall asleep. You have to have actual points where you’re making a difference, and one of the things people are looking for is animal welfare. I think it gives us a competitive edge going forward.”

Tops in sustainability

Three Norwegian seafood companies have found themselves in the top 10 of the world’s most sustainable protein producers list, with a Norwegian salmon producer sitting in the top spot.

For the second year in a row, the world’s largest salmon producer, Mowi, reigns at the top of the list of the world’s most sustainable protein producers. In total, three Norwegian seafood companies are ranked among the top 10.

The Coller FAIRR Protein Index looks at how the world’s 60 largest publicly listed companies producing meat, dairy and seafood perform on various risk factors relating to sustainability. 

In the three years the report has been published, Norwegian aquaculture companies have always led the way, with Lerøy Seafood Group grabbing the top spot in 2018 and Grieg Seafood also among the top 10.

American consumers continue to emphasize the importance of food being produced in a way that is environmentally sustainable. According to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2020 Food & Health Survey, 59% of U.S. consumers say it is important that the food products they purchase or consume are produced in an environmentally sustainable way.

 Øen is not surprised to see so many Norwegian salmon producers scoring high on these rankings year after year and meeting consumer demands for sustainable production. 

“Norwegian salmon companies are leading the way in sustainable protein production, and the industry is committed to continually improving practices to evolve and advance in a sustainable way,” she said. 

According to an April 2020 IFIC survey, more than 70% of respondents indicated they were concerned about climate change. Of those, more than half said these concerns impact food choices. 

“Eating seafood from Norway is one way environmentally conscience consumers can make sustainable food choices that support their personal values and beliefs,” Øen said. 

The primary purpose of the Coller FAIRR Protein Index is to support investors in making decisions taking sustainability into account, as well as enabling the companies themselves to benchmark against their peers and improve their management and reporting of risks. Companies on the list are ranked on how they perform in areas of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, use of antibiotics and labor conditions.

Another area where Norwegian aquaculture leads is in their use of antibiotics; no other animal farming practice uses fewer antibiotics than Norwegian aquaculture. 

“Norway has never produced more salmon than in 2019, yet the use of antibiotics continues to drop. This is the result of strong focus on fish welfare and food safety in the industry, and we are proud to say Norwegian aquaculture is the best in the world when it comes to antibiotic use in animal food production,” Øen said.

This story was included in the January 2021 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. Read the rest of the magazine here.