Norwegian farmed salmon has been so heavily marketed in Russia, that Russians are no longer buying their own wild fish, claims the chairman of the Russian Fishing Council, Aleksandr Saveljev. Russia is now one of the world’s biggest importers of Norwegian seafood.
“What is the difference between a squirrel and a rat?” asks Saveljev in a provocative article for Russian website Prodmagazin.ru, where he lashes out at the popularity of Norwegian fish in Russia. He goes on to answer: “Rats are not as good at PR. Now you can think about the difference between wild Russian fish and artificial Norwegian fish.”
Saveljev points to how the 2012 marketing budget for Norwegian fish in Russia was NOK 25.2 million, an increase from the 2011 budget of NOK 23.75 million. He claims the heavy marketing has skewed peoples’ tastes and perspectives.
“Work out for yourself how much they (the Norwegian seafood exporters, with backing from the government) have spent on it over the last 20 years, and it will become clear to you why this fish which is bred without freedom, is so popular in Russia, why it looks so attractive, is so in demand, and so expensive,” he continues.
Farmed fish is a relatively new phenomenon in Russia, and Russians have imported around 120,000 tons of salmon this year, an increase of 34 percent from the year before. This, according to Saveljev, has led to deep freeze units in some areas being full of Russian fish, while fresh food counters across the land are stocked with colourful and attractive farmed Norwegian salmon.
Jan Eirik Johnsen, director of the Norwegian Seafood Council in Russia, believes the success of Norwegian seafood in Russia is linked to more than just good marketing. “Taste, quality and confidence in Norway as the source country are important factors that we can build on,” he newspaper told Aftenposten.