As demographic and socioeconomic trends in urban China and rural America drive up demand for Atlantic salmon, HiddenFjord remains committed to catering to the higher end of the market by focusing on product quality.
When Bob Dylan recorded The Times They Are A-Changin’ in the early 1960s, few would expect that the song would become an internationally acclaimed anthem for social change in the broadest sense.
Half a century on, you won’t be surprised to hear a representative for a Faroese salmon producer explain such change as a major driver of demand for their product — a demand that is seen growing exponentially in urban China, and at healthy pace in less populated parts of the United States.
“There is an explosive growth in the large urban centers of China,” said HiddenFjord sales executive Óli Hansen. “In Shanghai and Beijing and a number of other major cities, sushi bars have began to pop up in downtown shopping malls. The young people enjoy it and salmon is very popular, so we see a huge market potential there.”
Of interest to suppliers of premium salmon is of course the rising buying power of a rapidly growing Chinese middle class.
In more established markets, such as the U.S., HiddenFjord is likewise optimistic on its outlook.
“The large population centers on the U.S. east and west coasts have long had sushi bars and seafood restaurants that serve salmon. On the other hand, there is an upward trend in health food and our product should be seen as a healthy food choice. However, if you go to some of the less densely populated areas in the Mid West and the South, salmon is virtually non-existent on many restaurant menus and is not something that home chefs are very much aware of either. To us that means there is a great opportunity in developing the U.S. market for premium salmon.”
While market development was taken to new levels with the introduction of the HiddenFjord brand a few years ago, the owners have long experience in the business and are among the leading fish farmers in the Faroe Islands. Their uncompromising approach to product development and quality has been widely known for a number of years, with fish welfare taking center stage. Much in line with ongoing scientific research in the Faroe Islands, HiddenFjord have been in the forefront when it comes to pushing fish farms further out to sea.
“We participate in research projects that focus on various aspects of product quality and fish welfare,” Mr. Hansen said. “The idea is that, generally, the further we get away from shore and out into the open ocean, the cleaner the water and the higher its oxygen content. According to our own observations, the fish look healthier for the same reason. On the other hand, the fish farms become less accessible in the winter when situated further out to sea, which again presents a challenge of its own. But we like to push the envelope to make sure our product is the best available in the market.”
‘Naturally raised salmon’: The Faroe Islands’ legislative and regulative environment has played an important part in ensuring salmon welfare, protecting farmed fish from disease and other pressures through strict allocation management to control where and how fish are farmed and for which duration of time.
Meanwhile many believe the added strains put on aquaculture equipment in rough weather is becoming less of an issue in the Faroes, following years of ongoing development with suppliers of equipment taking an active role along with the industry and the Aquaculture Research Station of the Faroes.
Other challenges include parasites such as sea lice, a common problem in fish farming.
“What we have done lately is simply extending the period before the fish are transferred to sea to make sure they are bigger and more resistant to parasites once they are transferred. In the latest cohorts the individual fish weighed as much as 500 to 600 grams at the point of transfer. It took an extension of the facilities on shore but the results look promising.”
As for harvesting, HiddenFjord were the first company in the world to invest in a fully mobile harvesting system that stuns and bleeds the salmon humanely to eliminate stress and secure the highest possible product quality.
“Again, fish welfare is extremely important for quality,” Mr. Hansen said. “For example, our salmon have been completely free of antibiotics since the early 1990s, and the density in our on-growing pens is kept below 15 kilograms per cubic meter. All this is part of what qualifies HiddenFjord as a sustainable producer of naturally raised salmon.”