Director of ASN: “Norwegian seafood has long since ceased to compete on price”

by | Jun 1, 2023 | Ukategorisert

Norwegian seafood is gradually conquering the Vietnamese market with high quality. The fastidious taste of Vietnamese is both an attractive challenge and also opening up a business opportunity.

Arctic Seafood Norway AS is a Norwegian seafood exporting and trading company. Director Jarle Aarseth shared about the journey of bringing high-class Norwegian seafood to the table in Vietnam.

Vietnam is a country with 3260 km of coastline, ranked 3rd in the world in terms of seafood exports. Why did you choose the Vietnamese market to conquer? 

Because Vietnam is a country of seafood, Vietnamese eaters know how to choose dishes. Norway is the second highest quality seafood exporter in the world. Using Norwegian seafood to conquer Vietnamese gourmets is a charm for every businessperson. 

What item did you choose to “salute” the Vietnamese at that time?

– I have started with Norwegian Salmon. At that time, I thought that “goods that are popular will be easy to sell”. But I was wrong.

With the gourmet market in terms of taste, aesthetics, price, and rapidly changing tastes like Vietnam, the salmon market is gradually becoming very competitive. New businesses like Arctic Seafood Norway AS don’t find niches as easily as I thought. 

Director of ASN: "Norwegian seafood has long since ceased to compete on price" - Image 1.

Jarle Aarseth, Director of Arctic Seafood Norway AS. Photo: Arctic Seafood Norway AS.

Norwegian seafood is considered high-class, and the price is also expensive. In your opinion, what factors will help Norwegian seafood compete with other countries to gain a foothold in the Vietnamese market ? 

– Norwegian seafood has long since ceased to compete on price. Norway chooses to lead in terms of quality. Whether with high-end or affordable seafood, Norway applies the same production standards. Norwegian standards are higher than common European standards in many aspects, especially food safety.

Currently, Norway and Vietnam are negotiating a free trade agreement. Hopefully in the near future, Norwegian seafood entering Vietnam will receive tax incentives. That’s one of the ways we keep quality and still have a foothold in the Vietnamese market. 

Vietnamese seafood is hot sea seafood, while Norwegian seafood is cold sea seafood. The taste of Vietnamese seafood is different. Vietnamese people are also famous for being gourmets and picky eaters. Is it difficult for you to conquer Vietnamese taste ? 

– I think the difference in taste is a business opportunity. Vietnamese people especially like new dishes. Strange at first, then they even try to use ingredients they don’t like to make something they would enjoy. Even with expensive seafood like lobster, Vietnamese still have a way to make them into affordable dishes like lobster Pho. Vietnamese people give me the opportunity to renew my own products. 

Vietnamese people still prefer fresh seafood over frozen seafood with the mentality that fresh food is better. With Norwegian seafood, how do you evaluate the quality – taste – price of fresh Norwegian seafood and frozen Norwegian seafood ? 

– This question I received right from the moment I intended to sell frozen Norwegian seafood to Vietnam.

In Norway, we have been using frozen seafood for decades. Our export standards are higher than common European standards in many aspects. We believe that with our expertise we could slowly conquer the market.

Norwegian law states that frozen seafood must be frozen within a certain period of time from the time it is brought to the surface; no less than a few hours in a Pre-rigor production model. With such a short time, the quality will be maintained throughout the life of the seafood.

That’s why Norwegian frozen seafood “the taste stays almost fresh”. We Norwegians are really proud of the quality of our seafood, whether using centenary technology or modern technology. 

Director of ASN: "Norwegian seafood has long since ceased to compete on price" - Image 2

Seafood is transported onto the plane. Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

How do orders from Vietnamese enterprises get guaranteed by ASN in terms of quality and economic benefits?

– We correct the point that Vietnamese businesses are most worried about: Check quality before ordering. Vietnamese enterprises often do not have their own people in Norway to check goods at the Norwegian warehouse. They only buy through photos, videos, and contracts. They are still anxious even though the goods are on the way to the port of Vietnam. Only when the goods arrive in cold storage in Vietnam and open to see with their own eyes, will they breathe a sigh of relief.

Vietnamese businesses will feel more secure if we represent them in the cold storage of the factory in Norway, take samples to check, determine the correct shipment and production date … then they confidently put pen to sign the contract.

The cost of checking goods can cause the purchase price to increase. But in return, Vietnamese enterprises will no longer worry about litigation if the goods are not of the right quality. Moreover, they do not have to worry all the months until the goods arrive in Vietnam. 

The disadvantage of frozen seafood is that its outlook is less aesthetically pleasing. With all kinds of fish, freezing right on the ship can easily cause the batches of goods to be distorted, broken, etc. How does ASN overcome these problems ? 

– I admit that not every fish factory in Norway is as flexible in terms of “beauty” of the products, as compared to many other parts of the world. Many Norwegian fish factories consider their products to be raw materials, not finished products. Therefore, the lack of aesthetic production is a weakness of Norwegian frozen seafood.

In our 5 years of working with fish factories, we have found the factories are ready for change. Currently, most of our strategic partners are ready to satisfy aesthetic appearance.

We still have a lot of work to do to make the packaging better.

Vietnamese people have a culture of using high-class seafood as gifts on Tet holidays, but they attach great importance to the form (packaging design). How does ASN pack products to ensure aesthetics and luxury for seafood shipments when exported to Vietnam, serving the needs of customers ?

– Packaging is one of the strengths of our Vietnamese partners. We support the Vietnamese partners to do outsourcing by promoting marketing. Through the Joint Marketing Program sponsored by the Norwegian Seafood Council, we provide marketing funding and support packaging aesthetics to meet the market needs.

Any company in Vietnam who wants to know more about the Joint Marketing Program can contact us.

Director of ASN: "Norwegian seafood has long since ceased to compete on price" - Image 3

Vacuum-sealed fresh salmon fillet, one of the most premium product lines of Norwegian salmon.Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

A Vietnamese business who is importing Norwegian frozen seafood said that they are looking forward to bringing Norwegian seafood to wedding tables in Vietnam. The problem is that the way to prepare these dishes for wedding parties is still strange to Vietnamese people. Can you share your experience ?

– I do not encourage you to prepare strange dishes for a large party if you have not tried it on a smaller scale before.

With imported seafood ingredients processed with local spices, Vietnamese businesses should experiment on the scale of family, friends, in small parties… where diners have similar interests of taste. It’s an opportunity to introduce new flavors alongside familiar dishes. When receiving positive feedback, the Vietnamese businesses can bring to a wedding party where diners have more diverse tastes.

In Arctic Seafood Norway AS, there are also Vietnamese people. She often uses Norwegian seafood to cook Vietnamese-style hot pot. For example, cod head cooked in hot pot with a lot of green vegetables, sa-te, ginger, onions… We enjoyed the Vietnamese recipes with such a great balance in both vegetables and protein. When we introduced that hot pot to more Norwegians, we had to carefully ask “is there anyone who can’t eat fish sauce ?

The friendly approach probably should apply to Norwegian seafood at Vietnamese wedding receptions.