Concentrating on sushi

Sushi is now one of the trends on the global restaurant and consumer market undergoing the strongest growth. Norwegian salmon is playing a leading role in this success and Nofima is one of the driving forces in the development.

Facts about sushi and sashimi

  • Sushi consists of boiled rice prepared with special vinegar and various toppings, usually different types of seafood, but options also include vegetables, egg or other food.
  • Sashimi consists of slices of raw fish or raw meat without rice served with dipping sauce and garnishes.

When Norwegian salmon was introduced in Japan in the 1980s it was regarded as being unsuitable for use in sushi and sashimi. However, following long-term efforts salmon gained a breakthrough in the sushi market, and is today a popular raw material. Nofima – or FTFI as it was then known – played a central role in this work.

The sushi wave is continuing to grow, and salmon is the most utilised fish type in this development. However, little knowledge exists about the sushi market, and this is an area Nofima wants to rectify.

Lacking knowledge

Little in the way of research exists on consumers’ habits and attitudes to sushi and sashimi, and few statistics are available about turnover and consumption.

“We wish to acquire greater basic knowledge about sushi. How does today’s sushi compare with traditional sushi? How do consumers eat sushi and sashimi, and what are their preferences? What proportion of the sushi is served with salmon? This type of knowledge will be able to be used to estimate market sizes and future potential,” says Project Manager Agnete Ryeng from Nofima.

Who is the typical sushi eater?

Sushi has also undergone a transformation from being an exotic and exclusive upper class dish to being common property. Today sushi is regarded as healthy fast food and is often referred to as “Japanese tapas”. However, preliminary studies show that to date it is restaurants and younger people in larger cities who have developed a sense for sushi.

“Our preliminary studies indicate that sushi and sashimi are most often consumed at weekends by urban people in the 20-45 age group,” says Ryeng. “These people are often interested in healthy diets, convenience, travel and fashion. Consequently, sushi and sashimi comply with the major global trend with a focus on health, enjoyment and convenience.”

The studies also look at possible barriers for eating sushi. The results to date indicate that the greatest obstacles are that sushi is raw and that people do not have knowledge about how to prepare and eat it.

To begin with the studies are being carried out in Norway, the United Kingdom and France, where the sushi market is increasing by 20 – 30 % annually. An increasing number of take-away sushi bars are appearing in all these countries.

In Oslo the first sushi restaurant opened in 1985 and today the city has approximately 80 places to eat sushi. The range of fresh and frozen sushi products available in supermarkets is also increasing. The total turnover of sushi in Norway in 2008 was calculated at NOK 270 million.

Sushi of the future

Even though salmon is often used in sushi, many other types of seafood are also represented. Halibut, scallops, scampi and tuna are also common. However, Ryeng believes sushi offers big opportunities for new Norwegian fish species.

“The Norwegian seafood industry now has a golden opportunity to further develop the sushi market in Europe, Russia, Asia, USA and South America, using not only salmon, but also other seafood, such as Norwegian shrimps and farmed cod,” she says.

Marketing Research  

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