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Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council/FIS

This is how the Italians want traditional Norwegian fish

  (NORWAY, 6/6/2024)

New generations are creating new food traditions in Italy. It also creates new opportunities for Norwegian dry fish, saltfish and clipfish.

At the Seafood Council's annual seminar for conventional fish products, we meet Paolo Monti. The seminar took place in Naples in the latter half of May. Monti is the fourth generation in the company Foods import dei Fratilli Monti. For 120 years, they have imported clipfish, saltfish and dried fish. In more modern times, the company has also based itself on the production and innovation of traditional seafood products.

-Soon, only those over the age of sixty will be making dishes of dried fish, saltfish and cutfish from scratch. Ready meals are the future, he believes.

He talks about ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat dishes made with traditional fish, which can be put straight into the oven, microwave or pot.

- I believe that traditional dishes with dried fish and cuttlefish will be important to Italians, also in the future. But we producers have to keep up with the times, says Paolo Monti

Over several years, the Italians' consumption of dried fish, clipfish and saltfish has been falling, which has also caused concern for Norwegian exporters. The decline in consumption is largely about the fact that younger people have neither the time for, nor the knowledge of, diluting and preparing the traditional raw materials. Cooking should be quick and easy.

Paolo Monti is nevertheless not worried about the future of traditional food. He believes new eating habits create new opportunities.

- The young people want to keep the tradition and preserve the atmosphere, the memories, the tastes and the scents of their grandmother's pots. But we have to give them some easy solutions, says Monti.

Cautious optimism

New traditions and the future of conventional seafood products were also an important topic during the seminar. The latest news from commodity flows, exports, economics, sales and trends was presented to a packed hall with Norwegian and Italian actors from the conventional part of the seafood industry.

-Despite more difficult times, lower cod quotas and inflation, we see cautious optimism in the Italian market. Among other things, there are many who believe that a shift towards products that are easier to prepare is a key to developing the market further, says the Seafood Council's representative in Italy, Tom Jørgen Gangsø.

At the same time, inflation and food prices have slowed down, and Italians have a brighter view of the future and the economy than they did just a year ago. In addition, Norwegian stockfish exports have remained fairly stable so far this year, and although Norwegian exports of clipfish and saltfish so far this year are somewhat lower than last year, Norway is still taking market shares from its competitors. It came to light, said the Seafood Council's whitefish analyst, Eivind Hestvik Brækkan gave his presentation.

As regards the consumption of "stoccafisso" and baccalà in Italian homes, and the sale in Italian shops and restaurants, there are both challenges, bright spots and opportunities.

The Seafood Council's Tom Jørgen Gangsø was the host and organizer of the conventional seminar in Naples. PHOTO: The Seafood Council

Sales and consumption

Price increases are a general challenge for the seafood consumer, also in Italy. Last year, home consumption of all types of seafood fell noticeably compared to the previous year, with one exception: pangasius. In terms of volume, home consumption of the relatively inexpensive food fish increased by as much as 50 per cent.

In the Multicedi store chain, they see the same tendency. The chain has 460 supermarkets spread over central and southern parts of Italy. In addition, they sell food to professional players in the restaurant industry.

-Customers, for example, more often choose ling fish (which is cheaper) than cod compared to before, says Luigi Colucci in Multicedi.

He can also say that sales of conventional products (with barcodes and fixed weight) have a downward trend, with one important exception: easily prepared and ready-to-cook dishes. The arrow for the sale of the easily prepared dishes in smaller packages has been pointing upwards for quite some time.

The trend is confirmed by the analysis agency Nielsen IQ, which has looked at store sales throughout Italy. Between 2022 and 2023, there was significant growth in the "ready-to-eat products" category, both for stoccafisso and baccalà. For products in the fixed weight category, sales of dried fish increased by 11 per cent in volume and 18 per cent in value. For baccalà in fixed weight, sales in this period fell by 10 per cent in volume and 2 per cent in value. The figures from Multicedi and Nielsen IQ support Paolo Monti's statements that "ready-made dishes are the future".

On a shop tour: Rune Stokwold at Glea AS found several ready-to-cook dried fish and baccalà products in the supermarkets in Naples. PHOTO: Neumann/The Seafood Council

Restaurant trends

In Italian restaurants, there is a positive development for the traditional seafood dishes: The number of servings of stoccafisso and baccalà rose from 43 million to 45 million between 2022 and last year, according to Linda Moreschi in the analysis agency Circana.

Among other things, Circana has researched what is important to people when they eat out, with an extra look at dishes of dry fish, clipfish and saltfish.

•It is those over 35 who most often choose stoccafisso or baccalà in restaurants

•Approximately 7 out of 10 say they choose dishes that they do not usually or are able to prepare themselves

•Many people are interested in new or special experiences when they eat out, for example new dishes and good service

•Many are more loyal to eateries that focus on sustainability, healthy food, where the food comes from, and that can accommodate special dietary needs

•6 out of 10 say the price is important for choosing a place to eat, and that they have changed their habits in the direction of cheaper places to eat and fewer or less expensive dishes. Strong growth for fast food chains is probably a result of this.

Source: Norwegian Seafood Council

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