The CEO of Villa Seafood Group, Ove Magnar Thu, thinks the company was well prepared when the corona pandemic hit, but believes it may be tough for the salmon industry, when societies begin to open up again.
In February, Thu was on his way back to Norway after working in Scotland when he realised that the corona pandemic would have serious consequences.
“I went home via Schiphol airport in Amsterdam and realised that this was going to be huge. I contacted all employees, asked them to bring a keyboard and computer screen and set up a home office,” he says to SalmonBusiness.
Villa Seafood’s head office is in Western Norway, Ålesund, but the company also has branches in Scotland and The United States.
Well rested at home from the trip in Scotland, Thu & co started to contact fresh product customers and warn them of upcoming logistics challenges.
“We said it might be wise to have frozen products in stock, so that you had something to offer if large parts of the world’s aircraft were put on the ground,” he says.
During the corona crisis itself, Thu has seen that the supermarket chains have reduced the number of goods they offer, but that salmon belongs to the basic selection and has increased attention.
“Some of our restaurant customers have also been creative and started with a meal kit, which means you can buy all the ingredients for a dish in a box that you pick up in the parking lot, and then prepare by yourself at home. This has worked very well in some regions,” says Thu.
“We also find that customers who previously only traded fresh fish, have now switched to frozen, and they have been very surprised by the good quality of the frozen goods. Frozen fish probably still have a bad reputation in the market, and therefore customers are pleasantly surprised, when they receive high quality Norwegian frozen salmon. We are excited to see how many of the “new” frozen fish customers will continue with frozen products after the world normalises,” he continues.
Thu thinks the time to come after the corona pandemic will be tough on the industry.
“When the logistics challenges are over and we can start selling as normal again, how many of the customers, who have been gone for a period of time, will we get credit insurance so that we can actually sell to them again? “I believe corona wave number two will be a credit crunch for the salmon industry. The industry is healthy, but which of our customers will still be there when we are out of this tunnel?” asks Thu.