Finnish trout roe well-liked in North Japan
Kalaneuvos to export up to EUR 1 million worth of Finnish trout roe to Japan.
Finnish trout roe is favoured by the Japanese in their traditional dish Sujiko. Kalaneuvos Group, based in Sastamala, Finland, has signed a deal on Finnish trout roe, valued at almost EUR 1 million, with the Japanese trading firm Nichirei Fresh Inc.
The Hukkanen family owns both Kalaneuvos and Finland’s largest fish farming company Nordic Trout Ab, based in Föglö in Åland island, responsible for producing the roe. Experienced long-time international seafood trade expert Tapani Helle contributed to the deal.
Specialist roe technicians representing Nichirei Fresh Inc travelled to Finland and Föglö in mid-November to monitor and prepare the roe production process to meet the standards required by the Japanese. Japanese consumers like Finnish trout roe due to its rich and sophisticated flavour. They also highly appreciate the pure aroma of trout roe. The trout roe, carefully salted and delivered to Japan frozen in skeins (bags of roe), are used in what the Japanese call Sujiko. (Skein is the membrane that holds the salmon or trout eggs together inside the fish. In the fish business it is called Green Roe. The egg skein can be collected from large female fish prior to the spawning season.)
Roe has long traditions in Japan, and it has been preserved for generations using various methods. Sujiko is one of the technically most challenging and elaborate methods of preserving roe. Sujiko is most popular in northern Japan, where fish consumption is highest.
“Finnish “Sujiko” is particularly appreciated by professionals in the fish sector, and it is also the favourite delicacy of many employees in our company,” says Shunji Murasawa, Manager of the marine products department at Nichirei Fresh Inc.
The taste, color and mouthfeel must be perfect. Each bag of trout roe is different. Technicians adjust the amount of salt and the curing time daily, depending on the texture of the roe bags at each time.
At Nichirei, everyone understands that their business is not only about producing and offering food for people in Japan but also about carefully transferring the core competence of this significant food culture to future generations.
“Sujiko has played a key role in our company since the early 1950s when we started to send our specialist roe technicians around the world,” says Murasawa.
He explains that a popular way to enjoy Sujiko is to cut slices on top of various rice dishes. Sujiko is also a popular snack enjoyed with Japanese rice wine sake. In the same way, salted skeins of pollock, called Tarako and Mentaiko, are consumed in Japan. Sujiko is also a popular gift as a token of love and caring.
The export market for roe reopens
Among Finns, trout roe is the favourite variety of roe. According to statistics from Natural Resources Institute Finland, 400 tonnes of roe were produced in 2019 for use as food. Trout roe became a stable item in the selection of Finnish fish sellers on a broader scale in the 1980s as trout farming began to grow intensely in the country.
Owing to the exquisite taste and mouthfeel, trout roe is a particularly popular delicacy for festivities, with Christmas the high season. The beautiful red-orange color makes it a popular garnish for dishes. The recent sushi boom has contributed to higher consumption of trout roe in Finland.
In the 1980s and 1990s, large quantities of trout roe were exported from Finland, particularly as Sujiko to Japan. In 1995, for example, 385 tonnes of trout roe, valued at FIM 31 million (approx. EUR 5 million), were exported to Japan. At that time, the Japanese also sent their representatives to Finland to supervise the processing and quality of the roe to ensure that it would meet buyers’ expectations. In Japan, Finnish Sujiko competed with Sujiko made using Alaska red salmon roe. Gradually, European Sujiko developed into a special product brand with a loyal customer base.
The roe market slowed down for Finns as large Danish and Chilean producers flooded the Japanese market in the late 1990s. However, small quantities of roe have still been exported from Finland to Japan. The deal on roe now signed with Kalaneuvos is a significant opening move in the demanding Japanese market, and an interesting learning process.
“For us, this deal confirms that, in Finland, we know how to farm and process trout in line with strict international quality standards. This is a great opening move for expanding our export as we intended when we decided to invest EUR 30 million in the extension to our factory, which was completed last year,” says Veijo Hukkanen, CEO of Kalaneuvos.
Kalaneuvos Oy is a Finnish family-run company which has produced high-quality fish products since 1975. The company operates in Sastamala, Turku and Kaskinen. Kalaneuvos is a pioneer in fish processing and the wholesale, import and export of fish as well as fish farming in Finland. The company develops, produces and markets premium fish products under the Kalaneuvos brand as well as private label brands for store chains. The high quality and unsurpassed taste is guaranteed by skilfully processed and manufactured products. Fish grown in clean Finnish waters, both farmed and wild, as well as the best imported raw materials, guarantee premium products and the superior taste.
The Kalaneuvos Group subsidiary Martin Kala Oy is located in Turku and Kaskinen, which is the largest Baltic herring fillet manufacturer in Finland. The group’s turnover surpassed MEUR 80 in 2019. The Kalaneuvos group employs approximately 155 persons.
Kalaneuvos Oy and the Hukkanen family of entrepreneurs also own the Nordic Fish Group and its subsidiary Nordic Trout which is concentrating on fish farming, with over 30 locations in Mainland Finland, Aland and Sweden. In 2019, the turnover of the Nordic Fish Group was MEUR 34. The fish farming group employs 120 persons and processes roughly 10 million kilos of fish annually. Combined, the companies owned by the Hukkanen family form the largest operator in the fish industry in Finland.