05 April 2012

The air cargo journey of aurora salmon produced in Norway

What connects the world’s top salmon-farming country with the world’s most ravenous fish consumers? The answer is Helsinki, the fastest export hub between Norway and sushi-loving Japan.

Every week Finnair Cargo ships 200 tonnes of salmon to the Far East for Lerøy Seafood Group, Norway’s top seafood exporter and the world’s second largest farmer of Atlantic salmon.

“Our cooperation with Finnair provides the fastest possible route to Japan, an important and demanding market for the consumption of raw fish. Working with Finnair, we deliver to Japan in a shorter time than it takes to reach Europe’s home markets,” says Hans Petter Vestre, Team Manager of Lerøy’s Airborne Seafood Division.

Efficient fjord-to-plate delivery is a must in Japan, where anshin (safety, reliability) has high value for fastidious sushi consumers.

Midnight sun sashimi

More than half the 7,000 tonnes of fresh salmon exported to Japan by Lerøy is Aurora Salmon®, an exclusive product tailored for the demanding sushi and sashimi segment.

“Aurora Salmon has a distinctive, sweet flavour that makes it very special. Added to that, we guarantee the freshest delivery to Japan flown by Finnair five times a week, so consumers always enjoy maximum freshness,” says Keita Koido, Managing Director of Lerøy Japan.

Aurora Salmon is farmed in the cold fjords of the Arctic Circle, in clear blue water with optimal currents for oxygen flow and salmon welfare. When the salmon is three years old, it is transported live from the farming site to the factory in boats full of seawater. It is then anaesthetised and handled in compliance with the strictest animal welfare standards.

The salmon is iced in Styrofoam boxes and trucked to Helsinki, where it is loaded on Finnair’s direct passenger flights to Japan, each carrying up to 480 boxes of salmon per flight. The salmon reaches Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka only 45 hours after swimming in the fjords.

“The first meals are served within a few hours of arrival. Our products end up in high-end restaurants and supermarkets, sushi-go-rounds, hotels and fish shops. Fish markets also play an important role as a distribution centre – it’s a long-standing tradition in Japanese fish culture,” explains Koido.

Eastward and upward

Speedy transport is guaranteed by the ‘Fresh Fish Every Day’ concept co-developed by Lerøy and Finnair Cargo. 

“Finnair is able to cut down transport time by delivering direct flight solutions to Asian countries, and since our Aurora factory is situated in the north of Norway, it is geographically logical to send our trucks to Helsinki instead of Oslo,” says Vestre.

“We didn’t have a fresh seafood solution when we started cooperating seven years ago, so we custom-designed this service together,” explains a representative from Finnair Cargo Sales.

“We collaborate closely with Lerøy to continually improve the service. We communicate regularly and go over every detail in quarterly meetings. So far the only challenge has been icy road conditions in wintertime. We have very precise allocations, so we know exactly how many kilograms of salmon will be loaded on every flight,” he adds.

“Finnair has proved to be a very reliable partner for long-term, stable freight solutions. We appreciate the fast, dependable service from Helsinki and hope Finnair will open up more destinations in the Far East in the future,” says Vestre.

With salmon rivalling tuna as the world’s top sushi ingredient, the demand is undoubtedly there. The future direction for salmon exports is eastward and upward.