With the expansion of its factory in Germany, plus an anti-Listeria program, Vega Salmon wants to focus on high-end sustainable salmon.
Danish salmon processing company Vega Salmon was founded in 2004 in the city of Esbjerg. In 2012 the Danish investment fund Maj Invest bought part of the shares. In 2016 the fund acquired the rest of the shares, making it 100 percent owner, international sales manager Morten Bank told Salmon Business.
“Our head office is located in Kolding, Denmark. Our main factory is located in Handewitt, on the German side of the Danish border, producing cold smoked salmon, and we have a factory in Sweden for the production of hot smoked salmon. There we produce around 2,000 tonnes a year.”
40,000 tonnes salmon
The factory in Handewitt was built because the location in Esbjerg became too small due to growing demand, says Bank.
“The factory in Handewitt is a state of the art processing location of 12,000 m², where we process 40,000 tonnes salmon head off gutted, for the production of 20,000 tonnes of finished products, among which cold smoked salmon and fresh fillets, in packages from 50 grams to 2.5 kilos.”
About 65 percent of the processed salmon is from Norwegian farms. The company also processes salmon from Iceland and Scotland, organic salmon, Sockeye from Alaska, and products based on rainbow trout.
The Handewitt factory will be expanded next year, says Bank, to integrate the Swedish premises into the German factory and satisfy the general need for expansion.
“The idea behind this is one stop processing to customer; 85 percent of our products are exported, mainly to the US, the far east and Europe.”
Salmon with passport
Vega Salmon has been focusing on sustainability for a long time, says Bank.
“We were developing a new profile, and in that process we conducted an international consumer survey about packaging. A package with a window showing the product emerged as the most popular. Since then, we have developed this as the profile for our brand ‘New Nordic’, linked to the motto: ‘Closer to nature’.”
“We wanted to stand out with a product line as sustainable as possible, with regulations that go further than ASC standards,” he continues. “That became the basis for our Purity brand. We have two Norwegian farms producing especially for us, for this brand. The salmon are farmed at very low density. EU regulations say 25 kilos of salmon per cubic meter of water for every fish, we demand 20 kilos per cubic meter.”
At present the company is developing a ‘salmon passport’ for each fish, by which it can be traced back to the farm where it was grown, Bank adds.
“Every salmon gets its own ‘salmon passport’, by which our customers and consumers can see where this salmon comes from, by logging in to our newly created website, entering the production code and being linked to full information on how and where the salmon was farmed. That is the best way of storytelling!”
The Purity brand salmon, which will be launched in Sweden and other countries in the beginning of 2018, will be priced a little higher than other Vega Salmon products, Bank explains, because of the effort behind it and the higher breeding costs.
“We guarantee that all of our Purity salmon is free of antibiotics, hormones, listeria and synthetic chemicals. This product range is suitable for supermarkets, food service and catering and will include fresh and smoked salmon products.”
Vega Salmon has introduced an anti-listeria programme with radical preventive measures, which replaces the traditional use of preservatives and stabilizers, says Morten Bank.
“In the US, Listeria tolerance is zero. That’s why we spend a lot of money on external analysis, to maintain high quality for our customers there. Our Handewitt factory is designed for the highest level of hygiene, with focus on daily cleaning and cleaning inspection. We also have intensive testing programmes for Listeria in raw material and end products. The production is physically separated in three hygiene zones with sluices with, among other measures, control of staff and color-coded working clothes.”