“We were travelling all around the world with salmon, and on one trip we saw that the price of live king crab was fantastically high compared with frozen. We had a fish farm in Bugøynes, which is also the king crab capital of Norway, so we thought we had all we needed to start a venture exporting live king crabs,” says Norway King Crab CEO Svein Ruud.
The king crab came to Norway from Russia, and Ruud underscores the value gained from cooperating with Russian researchers. A major breakthrough occurred when they succeeded in finding the perfect way to transport live king crabs, by measuring their heart rate.
“Russian knowledge has been extremely valuable, and cooperation on heart-rate measurement with the Russian Academy of Science in St. Petersburg has been crucial to successfully shipping live king crabs,” Rudd says. “By monitoring the heart rate we can pick up everything that’s influencing the crab.”
The company began in 2008 and now has 18 employees and NOK 52 million in sales. Perhaps its most prominent customer is the Copenhagen restaurant Noma, which several times has been named the best in the world. Norway King Crab’s growth strategy is to grow in step with customers such as Noma.
“We want a controlled pace of growth where we grow with our customers,” Rudd says. “That means that when one of our customers wants to expand their restaurant, open a new restaurant or start a new chain, we’ll satisfy their needs by being a part of their new market venture.”
As a brand, Norway King Crab has risen to the top of the food chain, much like Russian caviar. Product expectations are therefore very high, and the strength of the brand inspires loyalty among the most exclusive restaurants in the world. Norway King Crab is unique globally in that all the king crabs it exports carry traceable digital information.
“Our processing system lets us enter the weight, time of catch and information about the fisherman into the system we have developed,” Ruud says. “This information then becomes available in a QR code that restaurant guests receive and can read to make sure of the product’s quality and exclusivity.”
Our processing system lets us enter the weight, time of catch and information about the fisherman into the system we have developed. This information then becomes available in a QR code that restaurant guests receive to make sure of the product’s quality and exclusivity
Svein Ruud, Norway King Crab
These days the company supplies more than king crabs. Many customers approach the company for help in creating aquariums with the right conditions. The company’s own research director, Roman M. Vasilyev, travels often to provide customers with advice and expertise.
“We have developed special expertise in biology and technology, so when customers set up their own aquariums they seek out our knowledge and capacity. We then share what we’ve learned about treatment, storage and aquarium design. This expertise is a part of the strong brand,” Ruud says.
Norwegian support schemes and the Norwegian authorities have been of great help to the company. According to Ruud, the former fisheries ministers Lisbeth Berg-Hansen and Elisabeth Aspaker laid down an important foundation which has led to a doubling of export value and a tripling of value for fishermen.
“The SkatteFUNN scheme, Regional Research Funds in Norway and the Research Council of Norway have all been important to us at an early stage. We have also taken advantage of credit insurance, but the most important factor in opening the way for the industry has been the effort of the former fisheries ministers, Berg-Hansen and Aspaker,” Ruud says
Since Norway King Crab does not export capital goods, it has not been able to make use of export financing from Export Credit Norway.