Hiddenfjord stopped using airplanes last November and customers told MD and owner Atli Gregersen he was crazy. But what happened next?
New York fish distributor and owner of Pierless Fish Bobby DeMasco took a shot at Hiddenfjord who become the aquaculture industry’s first company to stop using air freight.
“Hiddenfjord I have a little less respect for as they have been boating their fish over. Who wants that older fish. The business is called the fresh fish business. By the time it gets here it’s like eight-nine-ten days old. I can get older fish myself, I don’t need help,” he said.
“What I can tell you is that we started on already in March last year. It was a very strange coincidence that it collided with coronavirus and it was very difficult to bring the fish on land to New York. So we have had different stories with a very long time on the way and now our delivery from the Faroes to the New York area is five days. It has improved,” explained Gregersen.
Hiddenfjord’s overseas transportation CO2 emissions have shrunk by 94 per-cent. But it has not been without challenges.
“We started on 13 days. We had several incidents in 20 days. And of course, there are true things with the quality issue. The one thing is the expected quality when you look at the date in the box, so people got irritated, they don’t like fish that is nine, ten, thirteen days old but if you look at the factual quality, the fish is in very good shape when it arrives in NY. I know, I have 100 per-cent confidence in that,” he said.
Gregersen said that many customers said, “you must be crazy, it’s not possible”.
“Get it out of my warehouse”
“One guy was so irritated that he said he would not open the boxes at all. “Get it out of my warehouse,” he said. This was May and then we convinced him to look at one pallet, one time, and now he is praising the quality and he is getting one full container every week, one a fixed price, eight weeks ahead all the time and there are many similar stories. When our customers get used to this, they ask for more and the price levels are very good,” said Gregersen.
In the beginning, at the high times of storms in the Atlantic, Hiddenfjord experienced very big problems around the end of the year and January.
“So it was a much bigger problem than flight at the beginning, Now it has been very regular six times in a row. And also when you send fish in a container, we can send it to our warehouse, directly to dockside for example. And if you compare with the airfreight, the pallets will out in the sun, so they have a very unsecure cooling chain. But we have a 100 per-cent cooling chain. So maybe the customer can calculate the quality of what he gets when he gets fish sent by sea. It’s much more stable quality,” said Gregersen.
At the moment Hiddenfjord is shipping 25 per-cent of its salmon to the USA.
“But it is increasing,” he said. “We do fillets that pre-rigor fillets. They are filleted between two and three hours after harvesting. They contain a very high flesh quality but the problem for some customers is that we are not able to remove the pin bones,” he said.
“But the quality of the fillets is very good and the shelf life is much, much much longer than nine or ten days. It can easily be used in 20 and 30 days,” added Gregersen.
We will never fly fish again
This is not just an experiment. This is now the way Hiddenfjord is operating. “We stopped flying and we will never fly fish again,” said Gregersen.
“The people at Fulton fish market, New York City, were irritated by us at the beginning and telling us that we are destroying this beautiful brand. But now they praise us for our very good high once again we have been proven right and they are very happy to sell our fish. We knew it would be a period of skepticism,” he said.
The MD said that more and more fish is going out by boat to the USA. Not every week. “Every third week our delivery goes up not down,” said Gregersen.
Chunk out of costs
Gregersen said it was an ethical decision albeit one with very high risk, but “we must admit that when we make the shipment by boat the freight is much much lower.”
“The cost is also going down and when we get a very high price for the fish in the future, we are getting more revenue net. It’s been a success economically. But that was not the main intention,” he stressed.
Key to the salmon farmers’ bold decision was the Boomtown Rats singer, Live Aid founder and political activist Sir Bob Geldof.
“Bob Geldof, he was in the Faroes advocated for the green C02 emissions (he was one of the keynote speakers at the Industry Day in Tórshavn .ed). He said one very interesting thing: “if you are working to do something new, don’t think about it too much, just do it as when you have done it, you will use all your energy to make it work,” concluded Gregersen.