Fast-food salmon chains target Asia

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Norwegian salmon producers and entrepreneurs aren’t only keen to boost sales of fresh fish in Asia. Now they’re investing heavily in exporting new fast-food restaurant chains with only salmon on the menu.

Pink Fish salads may be ready to go in Asia next year. PHOTO: Pink Fish

One of the new chains, called “Pink Fish,” opened its first fast-food salmon restaurant in Oslo last fall, in the basement food-court of the fashionable Steen & Strøm shopping center downtown. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that it aims to open as many as 1,000 “Pink Fish” restaurants all over the world, starting in Asia next year.

Now DN reports that the top chef and founders of “Pink Fish” aren’t alone: Norway’s huge salmon producer Marine Harvest is also backing efforts to expand another chain of fast-food salmon restaurants, with plans to open 2,000 in Taiwan and China. The idea is to get a bigger slice of the value chain for salmon, which already is well-known in Asia as a raw product.

“We won’t say how much we’re investing in this, but it’s strategically an extremely important project,” Ola Brattvoll, head of sales and marketing for Marine Harvest, told DN on Friday. “We want to launch the brand ‘Supreme Salmon’ in China. We think this has huge potential, and that we can build it up with 2,000 restaurants all over China.”

‘Supreme Salmon’ prototypes already open
The first “Supreme Salmon” restaurant opened in Taiwan in 2013, more have opened in since and Marine Harvest also has five “test restaurants” in China. “We’d been waiting for four-and-a-half years for (relations) to normalize between Norway and China,” Brattvoll said, and they finally did last spring, ending a diplomatic freeze that began in 2010 when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

The restoration of diplomatic relations cleared the way for more trade between China and Norway, and Norwegian seafood producers were among the most eager to resume exports. Now those exports include a much broader line of salmon products including restaurants.

Pink Fish founders say they want to become the “McDonalds” of fish, but with a top chef behind their menus. PHOTO: Pink Fish

“We want to become the McDonald’s of fish,” Ronny Gjøse, one of the entrepreneurs behind the “Pink Fish” restaurant chain, told DN on Friday. He’s not worried about competition from “Supreme Salmon” or fears that the market won’t be able to digest so many new salmon restarants. “No, it’s just positive,” he said. “Norwegian salmon will only become even more available. The market is so big that it’s not difficult to absorb demand.”

He was in Singapore this week along with partner Geir Skeie, the chef, restaurant operator and former winner of Bocuse d’Or who’s behind the various salmon dishes served by “Pink Fish.” They’re promoting their meals as featuring salmon from Norway with flavours from around the world.

“Many are talking about premium hamburgers and pizzas, but we see that the market for seafood is underdeveloped,” Gjøse told DN. “The goal is to make premium fast food and make seafood more available with salmon from Norway.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund