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Customized Report Services – Global demand for Arctic char fish species

September 2019

Introduction to Arctic char

Arctic Char belongs to the Salmonidae family (scientific name: Salvelinus alpinus), but are genetically closer related to lake trout, that is the only fresh water fish living as far north in the streams, rivers, native alpine lakes and subarctic coastal waters in North America, Asia, Europe, Iceland, and Greenland. It is the rarest fish found in Britain & Ireland and it is more commonly found in Nordic countries.Footnote 1

Arctic Char shares many similarities with salmon, with its red flesh and similar palatability, yet is less oily and has a milder taste and is often regarded as a gourmet item. Unlike salmon, it needs to be harvested longer by 20 months post hatchery due to sexual maturity which makes it makes it a smaller fillet size than other salmonids. Arctic char has a complex makeup that makes it challenging for farmers to selectively breed char with favorable characteristics. The fish are best suited to growing in smaller, densely stocked habitats, requiring partial recirculation and water treatment technology when farmed. With careful aquaculture management, disease transmission risk is very low, but if they escape from fishing farms, the Arctic Char are unlikely to survive and are at risk from acidification.Footnote 1

Arctic char farming facilities exist in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Italy, but the majority of the fish comes from Iceland, Canada, and the United States, who according to a Seafood Watch report North America and Iceland are moderately rated for releasing data availability which is lacking regarding ecosystem, farm effluent discharge information and industry statistics. Arctic char has not been farmed as abundantly as salmon due to lack of suitable infrastructure to increase production, meaning overall supply is currently limited.Footnote 1

Seafood Watch state's that global Arctic char aquaculture production has increased by approximately 25% from 2012 to 2016. Approximately 85% of global farm-raised Arctic Char receives a Seafood Watch "Best Choice (green)" rating (about 80% of this high rating global supply comes mainly from Iceland and remainder from Canada). Meanwhile approximately 15% of global farm-raised Arctic Char is unrated, mostly from within Norway and Austria. In fact, as of April, 2018, there only exists one 1-star Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP-certified) facility in Iceland and there are a few Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC-certified) farms for Arctic Char.Footnote 1

Trade overview and country profiles

Arctic Char, farmed in cool Icelandic waters is a fish in growing demand throughout Europe, Nordic countries and the United States (US), yet in short supply. The current markets for Arctic char are predominantly found in the Canadian, US and European foodservice and retails sectors where fresh, frozen, dressed and smoked char are sold. Top countries who import this species of fish are United Kingdom (UK), Denmark, Germany, France and Sweden. Amongst the list of importers, not included in the below table yet of whom have imported small amounts of Arctic Char are Greenland (who reported numbers in 2018), Poland, Taiwan and Portugal (who reports no numbers for 2018).

The two reporting countries that export Arctic char is Iceland and Norway and according to Eat Wisconsin Fish, the majority of Arctic char sold in the US grocery stores and restaurants comes from fish farms from within these two countries.

In Iceland, major species of fish caught in freshwater environments are Atlantic salmon, brown trout and Arctic char. Salmonids are the most important freshwater species. Most important is the Atlantic salmon which is equivalent to less than 10% of total wild salmon catch. Wild Arctic char is becoming more targeted since the early 2000's as its catching license is cheaper than that for Atlantic salmon. However, wild Atlantic salmon and Arctic char are among the smallest fisheries in terms of marine capture production. At present, Atlantic salmon are a restricted domestic-only, subsistence fishery, which significantly limits marine capture production.Footnote 2

The US seafood market is one of the largest in the world due to the population base (327.2 million in 2018) and their respective purchasing power. As this report will demonstrate, the US is a priority market for imports of Arctic char since they cannot meet demand with its domestic production supply. European countries such as the UK and France are also one of the top countries who serve Arctic char on their menu within several restaurants. It is also believed that regional markets close by to France, in the French Rhône-Alps regions and Switzerland have a significant demand for fresh Arctic char. Starting in 2018, regional French restaurants have started to import from Iceland's farming company Matorka.

Globally, Canada is Denmark's seventh-ranked supplier country and within the European Union (EU), Denmark is Canada's 2nd largest export market for fish and seafood. The lion's share of Canada's seafood exports to Denmark are cold water shrimp followed by small quantities of frozen lobster, scallops, halibut and snow crab (although the below statistics show that Denmark imported from the world Can$3.3 million of processed Arctic char). The fresh and frozen arctic char is not isolated under a particular HS code so that specific trade is not available through custom's data. Denmark is a global trading and distribution hub for seafood imports, exports, production and processing. Thus Canadian exporters should not focus much on the trade data since it is not necessarily reflective on Denmark's own domestic consumption of fish and seafood, as consumption is rather insignificant compared with several other EU countries and Denmark companies will repack and process the product before re-exporting to other European countries. Rather, exporters should focus on the buying capacity of many Danish seafood companies who specialize in importing seafood. A good way to find possible Danish importers or partners, is by consulting the Danish Seafood Industry Association (in Danish only) where most Danish seafood companies are members of this association. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification covers 90% of all fish sold in Denmark (Denmark Trade Commissioner Service: Fish Market report, 2019).

According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner service in Germany, although the country is the 3rd largest importer of Arctic char, this fish species is not among the top species consumed domestically. The top five fish species consumed in Germany in 2017 are Salmon (19.0%), Alaska pollock (17.5%), Herring (16.2%), Tuna (bonito- 14.3%) and Trout (7.1%). Arctic char is being produced/farmed in Germany, with production figures moderately increasing from year to year. The additional Arctic char supply may well have been imported and custom-cleared in Germany, but then shipped on to other EU Member States. Germans may get most of their fresh fish as imports, but its supply would be limited to a few delikatessen importers/distributors to sell in the market. Germans are overall interested in indigenous products, however, Germans are not willing to pay more for food or more nutritional claim positional products. If the product turns out to be too expensive comparable to other products sold at the discount trade, where Germans buy most of their fish, consumers are hesitant to buy it at all (indigenous or not).

Top global countries importing processed Arctic Char, 2017-2018
Country Import value (Canadian dollars) Import quantity (kilograms) Import price (Can$/kg) 2018
2017 2018 2017 2018
United Kingdom 3,413,450 3,698,170 698,887 768,275 4.81
Denmark 3,146,953 3,345,510 404,971 383,363 8.73
Germany 353,998 2,707,164 75,420 629,298 4.30
France 1,447,170 1,807,495 209,456 314,403 5.75
Sweden 1,446,255 1,177,835 191,458 146,712 8.03
Netherlands 628,257 381,035 82,313 50,129 7.60
Belgium 319,940 281,035 50,287 40,963 6.86
Vietnam 130,774 166,312 18,852 24,400 6.82
Malaysia 210,131 33,753 27,138 4,409 7.66
Phillippines 21,952 13,618 3,060 2,040 6.68
China 7,016 792 8.86
Lithuania 8,199 3,908 683 509 7.68
Total imports from world 11,141,976 13,629,992 1,763,280 2,365,775 5.76

Source: GlobalTrade Tracker, 2019

Harmonized System (HS) code (16041905): Conserved or semi-conserved trout (Arctic Char)

Production trends and challenges

There appears to be very limited knowledge on the marketing of Arctic char. Efforts to differentiate in the marketplace from the more dominant similarly associated fish such as the salmon or trout have been unsuccessful over the years and Char is currently experiencing higher prices due to low volumes which makes the market price very sensitive to this volume factor. Reports indicate that char sells for approximately $9.90 per kilogram for dressed fish and as high as $19.78 to $24.18 per kilogram for fillets (AAF, New Brunswick, 2010).Footnote 3

Price varies with the size and quality of the fish catch, along with availability. Since global output of farm-raised arctic char remains below mass market tonnage, prices were likely to remain stable since 2010 values, thus are probably still a good indicator to demonstrate price ranges in 2018. Price range has been lowered over the years to compete with the salmon and trout market, but this strategy did not prove effective in growing and increasing the awareness or demand for the niche Arctic char market.

Historic prices for fresh, head-on dressed Arctic char larger than 0.9 kilograms (kg) (2 pounds)
Source Freight-on-board (FOB) Value ($/kg) Shipping ($/kg) Ex-plant ($/kg) Yield (%) Farm gate ($/kg)
Québec Toronto 8.82 0.55 8.27 85.0 7.03
Manitoba Winnipeg 9.37 0.33 9.04 85.0 7.68
Ontario Toronto 9.37 0.40 8.97 85.0 7.62
Nova Scotia Halifax 8.50 0.44 8.06 85.0 6.85
PEI Halifax Not available Not available 9.37 85.0 7.96
Source: Feasibility Assessment of Freshwater Arctic Char & Rainbow trout Grow-Out in New Brunswick report, page 26

Production in freshwater systems

Reliable statistics on Arctic char production are difficult to find, but probably haven't increased much (possibly have decreased since early 2000's). According to sources found within the Feasibility Assessment Report produced by the Agriculture, Aquaculture Fisheries (AAF) in New Brunswick, less than 6,000 tonnes of char was produced worldwide in 2007. Arctic char are farmed mainly within the Nordic countries and Canada, where past and recent figures for production have not been available, yet is estimated at 960 tonnes in 2001 (Rogers and Davidson 2001). In 2007, Nordic countries produced approximately 5,000 metric tons (MT) (Siikavuopio et al. 2009), with Iceland's contribution at 2,200MT (FAO Aquaculture Statistics). Other countries including the US, Austria, Ireland and the United Kingdom produce less than 100 tonnes of Arctic char (FAO Aquaculture Statistics), therefore, to meet demand these countries are more exporters of Arctic char.

In 2012, Iceland produced 3,260MT of Arctic char; with 2013 production projected at 3,400MT. Official statistics are unavailable for Canadian and US Arctic char production, but are estimated on a much smaller scale of approximately 500MT annually.Footnote 4

Overall, data availability for Arctic char aquaculture in Iceland, Canada, and the United States are 'moderate.' With respect to Canada and the US, the small size of the industry indicates that there is not a significant amount of governmental or scientific study for many of the categories assessed in this Seafood Watch report–whereby production and industry statistics are notably lacking.Footnote 4

Marketing of Arctic char has suffered more due to inconsistent supply of the fish throughout the 52 weeks per year and the fact that the fish species is "not being properly positioned to differentiate itself in the consumer's eye, relative to its salmon and trout families." Additionally, farm-raised char is widely regarded as superior to the wild harvested product since farm-raised product is marketed as fresh, whereas wild harvested char is routinely delivered in its frozen state.Footnote 5 Nevertheless, according to several sources Arctic char has been a subject of considerable interest for the aquaculture industry in Canada with good growth at low temperatures typical to the Canadian environment and this specie type has a high market value.

Market and sector challenges:

Sustainability methods and production techniques

The arctic char will not be sustained if not managed carefully because its relatively slow growth, low fecundity, and infrequent spawning. In Canada, management approaches that have been applied to Arctic char fisheries in Nunavut include traditional used by the Inuit before government management and the conventional fishery management approach used by government for northern commercial fisheries. Neither of these approaches deals successfully with the challenges of contemporary Nunavut, given the increase in the Inuit population, the need to develop a cash economy, and the biological complexity of the Arctic char resource itself. Thus, there is a need to develop and implement a new approach that can accommodate the new circumstances and provide sustainability over the long term. (Kristofferson & Berkes 2012)

In Canada, almost all of the Arctic char resource is found in areas under land claim agreements: the Nunavut Territory, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories, the Ungava region (which is under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement), and the Labrador coast. The settlement of land claims in these areas has formalized resource co-management and almost all Arctic char stocks are under joint jurisdiction. The details of sharing of jurisdiction for fisheries management can be found in specific sections of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (1993), the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (1984), and the other agreements (Kristofferson & Berkes 2012).

An adaptive co-management approach, under current legislation in effect throughout most of the distribution area of Arctic char in Canada, offers an effective way to manage the Arctic char resource, while providing socio-economic benefits to resource users. It may provide an opportunity to combine traditional ecological knowledge with the scientific research that will ultimately lead to a better understanding of biological complexities and ways of dealing with ecological uncertainties (Kristofferson & Berkes 2012).

Historically, often three strains of Arctic char have been used to develop brood stocks in Canada; the Fraser River strain from Labrador, the Nauyuk Lake strain from Nunavut, and the Tree River strain, also from Nunavut. A fourth strain, Bristol Bay, from Lake Alkenagik, Alaska was developed from 1986 to1988, but this strain does not appear to be used in the aquaculture industry. The three strains were not selectively bred to enhance characteristics desirable for aquaculture only until later in around 2009 (Lundrigan et al. 2005). Over time the major issue was that due to early genetic impacts of inbreeding practices the aquaculture strains to their wild source populations have been found to possess significantly less genetic diversity, and additional genetic variation was likely lost through non-random selection of a low number of founding parent stock. This increased levels of inbreeding within the farms have led to all strains now exhibiting low fertilization and viability (Somorjai, 2001).

In 2001, Icy Waters Ltd. began collaboration with Simon Fraser University to incorporate improved genetic management into their brood stock strategy (McGowan et al. 2009). Alternatively, Icy Waters had also tried various experiments by selecting certain brood stocks to test its tolerance of warmer water temperatures and broaden the potential for Arctic char to be reared in warmer regions, where the temperature may exceed 15 degrees Celsius (McGowan et al. 2009). Icy Waters Ltd. had become the dominant supplier of Arctic char eggs to the aquaculture industry. Other experiments from this company included the use of photoperiod control which allowed the increase in the availability to eggs with two spawning periods both in the spring and fall. The company in addition, provides all-female stocks and triploid hybrids of the Nauyuk and Tree River strains to alleviate the problem of early maturity in male Arctic char (McGowan et al. 2009). The Nauyuk-Tree River hybrid strain represented 80% of Arctic char grown in North America (McGowan et al. 2009), as this strain was found to be faster growing than the Nauyuk Lake strain in trials in a recirculation aquaculture system at 13 to 15 degrees Celsius (Summerfelt et al. 2004). Overall, Arctic char has a complex makeup that makes it challenging for farmers to selectively breed char with favorable characteristics and the majority of the early Arctic char ventures failed whereby many Canadian farming companies, in particularly, in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (PEI), switched to farm other species in the similar salmonidae or trout families - that are easier to breed.

There are various sustainability methods employed in the catching and production of arctic char globally. Methods for catching can be through the use of gillnets and/or weirs while production can implement land-based flow-through systems and recirculating aquaculture systems. Within Canada and the US, some production techniques for char are land-based in fresh water, and include farms practicing flow-through systems and the use of recirculation tanks to reuse and improve water quality.

Gillnets, with a minimum mesh size of 139 mm, predominate in the fishery, but a weir, adopted for commercial harvesting purposes, has been used periodically at three sites (Jayco, Ekalluk, and Halovik rivers) in Canada. This is a traditional-style weir but made of modern material (conduit pipe). There is no minimum size limit for Arctic char taken in the weir, although experience has shown that the larger char are selected. These river fisheries appear to have been sustained over the years. In 2003, Kitikmeot Foods Ltd., which runs the fishery, reported a harvest of 42,000 kg of Arctic char with sales of $450,000 (Kristofferson & Berkes 2012).

In Canada, char farms are found in the Yukon Territory, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba. Within the US, there is a notable farm in Wisconsin that sources char eggs from a hatchery in Washington State.Footnote 7 In general, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, land-based production systems represent a 'low-' risk in terms of environmental impacts with Canada and the US scoring 6.72 and Iceland scoring 6.78 out of 10 respectively, ranking these regions a 'Green - Best Choice'.Footnote 7

In regards to habitat impacts, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch also notes that arctic char farming in Iceland, Canada, and the United States "maintain habitat functionality and avoid the conversion and loss of ecosystem services. Farms have either been operating for extended periods of time with no adverse habitat effects, or alternatively have been established on previously converted lands (e.g., agricultural farms or pre-existing industrial buildings)." As such, char aquaculture results in minimal habitat impacts and receives a Factor 3.1 score of 9 out of 10.Footnote 7

Sustainability summary of ratings required by region and method
Origin Method Ratings
Canada Land-based flow-through systems SFW[1], OW[2]
Canada - Nunavut Bottom Gillnet SFW, OW
Canada - Nunavut Weirs SFW, OW
Iceland Land-based flow-through systems SFW, OW
United Kingdom Land-based flow-through systems SFW, OW
United Kingdom RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems SFW, OW, GFG[3]
United States Land-based flow-through systems SFW, OW, GFG
Unassessed origin Unassessed farming methods SFW, OW
Worldwide RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems SFW, OW

Source: FishChoice | Artic Char: Sustainability Summary

1: Seafood Watch - Best Choice

2: Ocean Wise - Recommended

3: Good Fish Guide - Rating 1 Best Choice

Certification

The Aboriginal Principles for Sustainable Aquaculture (APSA) standard is a third-party certification program developed by the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association (AAA) of Canada. The certification applies stringent standards that provide assurance that aquaculture operations within a traditional territory are achieving the sustainability goals of both the First Nation and the aquaculture operator. The APSA Standard can be applied to any aquaculture operation including those wholly owned by First Nations, in addition, to

First Nation/non-aboriginal partnerships.

The importance of this certification is not only the economic, social and environmental values it brings to the First nation community, but it helps to demonstrate the significant measures that aquaculture operators abide by in order to maintain the respectful values, aspirations and traditions of their First Nation partners.Footnote 8

The benefits of seeking and achieving APSA certification in regards to the promotion and protection of indigenous arctic char, is in outlining the importance behind how First Nations provide assurance in the sustainability practices always followed during the catching and/or production of this fish species. Achieving this certification, helps to create a novel niche market. It also is a great opportunity to promote, enhance and raise awareness of the First Nation company's environmental and social responsibility, to the environmentally conscious consumer.

Competitive landscape

Competition from other supplier nations is a constant challenge. Situated outside of the capital (Reykjavik, Iceland), the Icelandic fish farming company Matorka has pioneered a sustainable approach to farming Arctic char with its natural geothermal energy in combination with the country's clean fresh water supply. Iceland is suitable to farming Arctic char and Matorka prides themselves as being a leading environmentally friendly and sustainable aquaculture company. Arctic char is at risk from acidification and Matorka is a carbon neutral farm, designed to power its operations, adding oxygen to the fresh water as required with the usage of no antibiotics or chemicals with its natural ground water sources. Another successful Icelandic company selling farmed Arctic char is Ice Co with agents in Switzerland, who cover the nearby regions in France.

Aqua-Spark invests millions of dollars to the Matorka farm, who has invested in five other companies including: a Norwegian halibut farm, a fish feed monitoring company, a tilapia farm in Mozambique and a biotechnology company that specializes in making fish feed healthier and more environmentally sound. Matorka have built a farming facility in Grindavik, Iceland.Footnote 9 According to an article « L'omble chevalier islandais pointe son nez » starting late in 2018, the new Matorka farm has begun to export to France via the Viking Fresh company in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where volumes are limited to 1 tonne per week, delivered by plane and available to the customers' premises within 48 hours. Production will gradually increase in 2019 and wild fishing companies will have to compete with the capability of supplying and delivering fresh fish quickly and consistently throughout the entire year, to meet expectations of restaurant owners at the same level as those companies who farm the fish.

Selected suppliers of Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus)
Supplier Origin Harvest method
Albion Farms & Fisheries Canada: Yukon Territory, British Colombia, Iceland Gillnet, submersible net plan
Cascade Aqua Farms Washington, United States Closed/contained
Codfathers Seafood Market British Columbia, Canada Closed/contained
First Fish Distribution Non-Profit Corporation Nunavut, Canada Net
Hudson Valley Seafood New Brunswick, Canada Tanks
Icy Waters Arctic Char Yukon Territory, Canada Closed/contained
John Nagle Co. Iceland Closed/contained, submersible net plan
Matorka Iceland Flow-through system
Mikuni Wild Harvest Washington, United States Flow-through system
Pacific Fresh Fish Ltd. Canada Closed/contained
Sea Agra Seafood Ltd. Canada Open/uncontained
Seattle Fish Company United States, Iceland, British Columbia (Canada) Submersible net plan
Seacore Seafood Inc. Yukon Territory, Canada Closed/contained
Sustainable Blue Ontario, Canada Closed/contained
Sustainable Seafood Sales, LLC. Iceland Closed/contained

Source: FishChoice - Giving Businesses the Power to Advance Seafood Sustainability

After the initial availability of Arctic char eggs and fingerlings in the mid-1980s, interest in producing Arctic char began to grow throughout Canada. However, a few decades later, the majority of the early char ventures failed or switched to farm other species. Specifically at least four farms tried to rear Arctic char in Newfoundland, including a seawater trial, but none were operating as of 2006 (Glebe, 2006). Likewise developed in 1987, three farms in Prince Edward Island and three farms in Cape Breton ceased to operate after 1993. Icy Waters Ltd. in Yukon, however, is one of the largest Arctic char producers and has remained in the industry for over 20 years, producing over 120MT per year mostly for sales of Arctic char eggs to domestic and international markets (McGowan et al. 2009).

There are only now a handful of Arctic char farms across Canada. Although, the Prairies are not known for fish farms, Arctic char is successfully farmed in the community of Anola, Manitoba. Sitting on top of an aquifer, this farm breeds this species on their Ridgeland Aqua farm and this is the only fish farm of its kind situated in the Prairies.

Although trout production is farmed commercially in more than a dozen states, around 60-70% of its production in the US comes from the state of Idaho along its Snake River, known as "Magic Valley", followed by North Carolina and Pennsylvania state. This river lies on a 50 kilometer aquifer, which produces a constant supply of fresh water at a year round temperature of 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius). Clear Springs Foods is a major company with its own hatchery which held a 60% share of the US trout market, where 70% of sales are fresh and are sold to the foodservice sector (2010).Footnote 10

According to an Industry Development Specialist-Aquaculture, Government of Manitoba, Arctic char has a unique position within the diverse global seafood market as an affordable delicacy and as such, has the potential of increasing its production and positioning within a niche market supplying indigenous fish products. Arctic char tends to compete most closely with other salmonid species such as steelhead (aka rainbow trout) and salmon. Due to the low production volume of Arctic char, unique desirable characteristics and the reputation as a "special" product sourced from cold waters, Arctic char does fetch a premium price compared to its competitor species. The need to differentiate the characteristics and taste inherent to Arctic char from salmon, should be further pursued by Arctic char producers.

Various fisheries and suppliers within Canada offer Arctic char as a 'smoked' fish product which offers consumers another option instead of smoked salmon (which typically yields a lower production cost); however, the importance of differentiating the uniqueness of arctic char through certification and/or branding may prove essential in making this distinction. Arctic char is almost exclusively raised in sustainable farming systems and has a green rating with consumer-facing seafood programs such as the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, SeaChoice and Ocean Wise are an essential prerequisite for the marketability of the arctic char as an environmental and sustainable product for the sustainable conscientious consumer, Industry Development Specialist-Aquaculture, Government of Manitoba.

Consumption trends and demand

Demographic research shows that people between 50 and 60 years old are the major purchasers of seafood. Over the past decade, US per capita consumption of fish and seafood has ranged between 7.26kg and 7.48kg and grows at a modest rate. Domestic supplies of seafood are not sufficient to meet the demand (import-oriented). Contrarily, the Canadian seafood industry produces far more fish and seafood than its citizens can consume and is largely export-oriented, however, with little growth in total Canadian fish and seafood landings or farms. Canada's demand for consumption is significantly higher by approximately 30% than Americans on a per capita basis. However, similar to the States, North American seafood consumers are increasingly seeking high-quality, value-added fish products that are pre-cooked, skinless/boneless fillets that offer value at low cost and are conveniently easy to prepare.Footnote 10

Denmark is leading in Europe in terms of producing and supplying farmed freshwater Trout, with main catch species being sprat, sand eel, cod, herring and mackerel. Danish importers tend to favor suppliers with whom they can build a longstanding supply relationship, largely since their customers require long term commitments. However, Canada's Trade Commissioner Service in Denmark states' that consumption of Arctic char is very low in Denmark, as it is not well-known, neither is the indigenous branding value, where this fish species comes with a higher price tag and might be confused with the more common rainbow trout or freshwater trout. Additionally, Norwegian salmon and canned tuna are the consumer's preference and Arctic char is not widely available in the HRI-sector, but promoted as a Greenlandic inspired dish in various lifestyle magazines.Footnote 11 Nevertheless, as stated previously in the trade overview section, European countries such as the UK and France are one of the top countries who serve Arctic char on their menu within several restaurants. It is also believed that regional markets close by to France, in the French Rhône-Alps regions and Switzerland have a significant demand for fresh Arctic char. Additionally, Germans have an overall interest in indigenous products, however, food prices are a decisive factor and consumers are not willing to pay much for high-priced food or for fortified/more nutritional product claims. Although Germans buy most of their fresh fish and the country produces only a small amount of fresh Arctic char, its supply to sell in the market would be limited to a few delikatessen importers/distributors.

Foodservice in the restaurant market

As reported in GlobalData's Menu Intelligence database 2019, menu items containing 'Arctic char' as a dish only appear on the menu within restaurants worldwide, 0.0003% of the time. More specifically (as reported in GlobalData), there are 4 main countries globally (United States, France, United Kingdom, Canada), located in 106 cities, totaling 177 restaurants offering 223 menu items with 'Arctic Char' on their menu. Top restaurant cuisine types where this fish species are found include mainly American cuisine, followed by Italian, French and European cuisine types.

The selling price of Arctic char within restaurants throughout the world mostly fall in the US$20.01 to US$30.00 price range (56.0%). The average global price of Arctic char dishes is US$23.12 out of a sample size of 223 menu items. Noteworthy is the fact that the average price change has remained stable at zero change both in 2016 and 2018 time periods, yet decreased in price in 2017 by an average change of −5.9% (significant price changes in 5 items and prices remained static in only 3 menu items).

Global restaurant cuisine types selling Arctic char, by number of menu items and percent share (%)
Restaurant cuisine type Number of menu items Share % by cuisine type
American 150 61.5
Italian 26 10.7
French 23 9.4
European 14 5.7
Japanese 9 3.7
Mediterranean 8 3.3
Greek 6 2.5
International 4 1.6
Asian 3 1.2
Vietnamese 1 0.4
Total 244 100.0
Source: GlobalData Intelligence Centre - Consumer, 2019
Number of menu items by price range, measured in US dollars
Description of this image follows.
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Price range:

  • US$2.51-5.00: 4 menu items (1.8%)
  • US$5.01-10.00: 5 menu items 4 menu items (2.2%)
  • US$10.01-15.00: 25 menu items (11.2%)
  • US$15.01-20.00: 34 menu items (15.3%)
  • US$20.01-30.00: 125 menu items (56.0%)
  • US$30.01-40.00: 28 menu items (12.6%)
  • US$40.01-60.00: 2 menu items (0.9%)

Source: GlobalData Intelligence Centre - Consumer, 2019

Average price: US$23.12 out of a sample size of 223

Arctic char can be topped with so many other ingredients to enhance its flavor like wildflower honey brushed, wild mushroom and mango/various truffle sauces, pineapple salsas, elderflower mustard, coconut cucumber water and fresno chiles, fennel purées, red wines, vinaigrettes, and strawberries - the sky is the limit. Extremely versatile, it can be prepared by steaming, broiling, smoking, roasting/baked, pan searing, sautéed, poached etc. The main Arctic char dishes seem to be mixed with just about any vegetable or with a wide range of fruit sauces, in addition to being created in bun, omelet, and tartare form and can be served in sushi and sashimi.

Out of 177 reported restaurants serving Arctic char, 156 restaurants were found in the US (88.1%), 13 in France (7.3%), 7 in the UK (4.0%), and 1 reported in Canada (0.6%). Nevertheless, there are several other restaurants throughout Canada that serve 'Arctic char' on its menu that are not reported in the GlobalData database. Examples include restaurants in Vancouver, British Colombia (Arctic char, Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, Blue Water Café + Raw Bar, The Sandbar, Nightingale etc.) and in Ottawa, Ontario (Arctic char, Fraser Café, Play Food & Wine, Beckta, Backdrop, Wellington GastroPub etc.)

Examples of restaurant and menu item names serving Arctic Char on the menu, by country and city, price in US dollar
Country (city / location) Menu item name Restaurant names Price (US$) Local price
Canada
Ottawa Arctic char fillet (broiled & finished with fresh mango and mint salsa) Coasters Seafood Grill 21.19 Can$27.99
United States
Alexandria Cold poached Arctic char (roasted beets, king richard leeks, buttermilk sorrel sauce) Evening Star Café 14.00 US$14.00
Atlanta Arctic char (in sherry wild mushroom broth) Kyma 30.00 US$30.00
Boston Crispy Arctic char roll (nori, hot Chinese mustard) Myers + Chang 12.00 US$12.00
Chicago Pan roasted Arctic char (chorizo, butternut squash and root vegetable hash, spinach, fennel purée) Kendall College Dining Room 21.00 US$21.00
Denver Arctic char (with strawberry variations, Fresno, basil) Stoic & Genuine 12.50 US$12.50
Mahopac (NY) Arctic char* Ricks Seafood & Gourmet Specialties 28.00 US$28.00
New York Wild North Atlantic Arctic char (basil risotto, dried tomatoes, truffle sauce) North Square 23.00 US$23.00
Sedona Arctic char (creamed leeks, sunflower sprouts and seeds)* Che-Ah-Chi at Enchantment Resort 32.00 US$32.00
Telluride Nunavut Arctic char (apple chili butter sauce, fried kale) Honga's Lotus Petal 28.00 US$28.00
France
Aix-les-Bains Arctic and Arctic char duo* Le Manoir 25.68 €22.00
Clermont-Ferand Arctic char pavers in cantal Hostellerie Le petit Bonneval 26.55 €25.00
Lyon Arctic char of Cevennes (purée of celeri, chanterelles sauce raisine', apple - siphon and smoked eel) La Table de Suzanne 28.67 €27.00
Poitiers Arctic char baked on bed of asparagus from Poitou Le Clos de la Ribaudiere 33.98 €32.00
Strasbourg Arctic char with champagne sabayon and vegetable ravioles L'Assiette du Poete 22.18 €19.00
United Kingdom
London Whole Arctic Char for 2 The Harcourt 52.84 £42.00
London Carrot and mandarin purée, potted green cabbage, parsnip croquette, Arctic char, parsley sauce Grain Store 22.64 £18.00
London 'Ike Jime' Arctic char tartare Wright Brothers 14.50 £11.50
London Smoked Arctic char tartare, Tokyo turnip and granny smith Merchants Tavern 10.08 £8.00

Source: GlobalData Intelligence Centre - Consumer, 2019

*: Menu item archived

Comparative product price analysis (salmon) within the US and Europe

Throughout the world, a total value of Can$212.0 million was imported for fresh/chilled salmon and a value of Can$56.6 million for frozen salmon in 2018. Comparatively speaking this means that 5.1% of conserved or semi-conserved trout is imported worldwide below the combined fresh/chilled or frozen salmon import values. Top importers of fresh or chilled fish are Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom. Meanwhile, top importers of frozen salmon are Norway, United States and Canada. Canada and the United States seem to meet domestic demand more for imports of frozen salmon over fresh or chilled salmon imports (which they most likely farm domestically), respectively valued at Can$6.8 million and Can$5.5 million in 2018.

In 2018, average price per kilogram throughout the world for fresh/chilled salmon is approximately Can$6.62/kg and for frozen fish is Can$5.18/kg. The price range exporters can get per kilogram for fresh/chilled salmon is between as high as Can$14.44/kg in Iceland and as low as Can$1.08/kg from Oman. Similarly, the price range between frozen salmon is Can$11.50/kg (Norway) and Can$3.68/kg (Spain). The global average price per kilogram for conserved or semi-conserved Arctic char is valued slightly lower than the fresh/chilled rate in comparison at Can$5.76.

Top ten fresh/chilled salmonidae importers in 2018 (Harmonized System code 030219)
Rank Top importers Import value (Can$) Import quantity (kg) Import price (Can$/kg)
1 Norway 50,458,237 3,896,519 12.95
2 Sweden 40,834,658 3,755,827 10.87
3 United Kingdom 16,897,450 1,367,242 12.33
4 Oman 15,263,537 14,141,000 1.08
5 Denmark 12,682,581 1,125,115 11.27
6 Iceland 10,190,698 705,671 14.44
7 Spain 8,982,702 758,517 11.84
8 Netherlands 6,938,719 568,850 12.19
9 France 6,701,642 578,865 11.56
10 Czech Republic 5,492,629 467,265 11.75
14 United States 3,187,430 478,049 6.66
31 Canada 253,117 33,336 7.54
World total 211,994,903 31,890,383 6.62
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2019
Top ten frozen salmonidae importers in 2018 (Harmonized System code 030319)
Rank Top importers Import value (Can$) Import quantity (kg) Import price (CAD/kg)
1 Norway 10,133,314 881,356 11.50
2 United States 6,757,796 773,168 8.73
3 Canada 5,485,810 1,325,646 4.06
4 Poland 3,088,037 563,524 5.48
5 Germany 2,733,375 489,473 5.58
6 Denmark 2,710,448 274,895 9.86
7 Chile 2,538,195 290,580 8.73
8 Netherlands 2,475,361 477,610 5.18
9 United Kingdom 2,162,758 244,300 8.85
10 Spain 2,143,263 582,452 3.68
World total 56,552,685 10,886,871 5.18
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2019

According to GlobalData Price Intelligence, there are several fresh and/or frozen salmon seafood products available according to a wide variety of salmon (wild pink, wild Alaskan sockeye) available in specified US retailer supermarkets.

Sustainably Wild-Caught Skinless and Boneless Pink Salmon

Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence
Company Chicken of the sea
Brand Chicken of the sea
Category Processed fish, meat and egg products
Country United States
Launch type New packaging
Date published April 2018
Price in US dollars 2.22

Chicken of the Sea Sustainably Wild-Caught Skinless and Boneless Pink Salmon has been repackaged with an updated design. This MSC certified product is naturally high in protein, kosher certified, and features a fresh taste, as well as requiring no draining. It is ready to eat or serve, contains heart healthy omega-3, which can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, and retails in a 2.5-ounce (oz.) pack featuring a recipe suggestion.

Retail price of frozen salmon in the US, price in US$
Product name-description Retailer Category Price (US$) Retrieval date Units (grams) Pack type
Chicken of the sea; Premium; smoked salmon, boneless and skinless Walmart Frozen fish and seafood 2.22 May 14, 2019 142 Single pack
Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon fillets CobornsDelivers (COBD) Frozen fish and seafood 17.49 May 1, 2019 169.8 Single pack
Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence - Product list, 2019

Of note, the current product count available to US retailers of the 'frozen fish and seafood' category has declined by 50% within the last 6 months.

Product count (frozen fish and seafood) within the last 6 months available to US retailers
Category Last 6 months Current product count % Change
Chilled Raw Packaged Fish and Seafood - Processed 3 3 0.0
Ambient Fish and Seafood 6 6 0.0
Frozen Fish and Seafood 6 3 −50.0
Chilled Raw Packaged Fish & Seafood - Whole Cuts 3 3 0.0.
Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence - Product & Brand Analytics, 2019

As in the US, there are several fresh and/or frozen salmon seafood products available according to variety of salmon, within various European countries.

Boneless Salmon Fillet with Skin
Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence
Company Albert Heijn
Brand AH
Category Processed fish, meat and egg products
Country Netherlands
Launch type New packaging
Date published January 2019
Price in US dollars 12.77

AH Graatvrije Zalmfilet op Huid (Boneless Salmon Fillet with Skin) has been repackaged. This Atlantic salmon is said to be grown in Chile and has been cultivated according to the ASC standards. This product is free of bones, gluten and dairy, and retails in a 675-gram (g) pack containing five pieces, and featuring the ASC and the Plastic Heroes logos.

Norwegian Smoked Salmon
Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence
Company Labeyrie, France
Brand Labeyrie
Category Processed fish, meat and egg products
Country France
Launch type New packaging
Date published May 2019
Price in US dollars 4.44

The product is made with salmon raised in the Atlantic ocean in Norway, in water quality controlled sites, fed with a non-GMO diet. The hand-sliced product is beechwood smoked in France, is naturally rich in omega 3 and protein, and is said to feature a melt-in-the-mouth texture with a sweet and delicate taste. It is free of preservatives and retails in a partially recyclable 215g easy-to-open pack, containing six slices with convenient dividers and bearing the CertiConfiance logo. The manufacturer claims to respect the natural life cycles and animal welfare and to offer compete traceability.

Retail price of frozen salmon in Europe (select countries), price in US$
Product name description Country Retailer Category Price (US$) Retrieval date Units (grams) Pack type
The pink salmon fillet fish Russia Utkonos (UTK) Frozen fish and seafood 6.87 May 8, 2019 800 Single pack
Labeyrie Norway smoked salmon France Coradrive (CRD) Frozen fish and seafood 4.44 February 20, 2019 75 Single pack
AH Salmon fillet on skin Netherlands Albert Heijn (AHNL) Frozen fish and seafood 12.77 February 27, 2019 675 Single pack
Truffle royal fillet United Kingdom Farmdrop (FDP) Frozen fish and seafood 29.40 March 8, 2019 200 Single pack
Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence - Product list, 2019

Of note, the current product count available to select European retailers of the 'frozen fish and seafood' category has declined by 33% within the last 6 months and 50% within the last 30 days.

Product count (frozen fish and seafood) within the last 6 months available to select European retailers
Category Last 6 months Current product count % Change
Chilled Raw Packaged Fish and Seafood - Processed 6 8 33.3
Ambient Fish and Seafood 2 4 100.0
Frozen Fish and Seafood 6 4 −33.3
Chilled Raw Packaged Fish and Seafood - Whole Cuts 0 1 0.0
Source: GlobalData Price Intelligence - Product and Brand Analytics, 2019

Arctic char - Global product launch analysis

The flesh of Arctic char is similar to that of salmon, ranging in colour from rather pale to bright orange-red, and depending on diet, is regarded as a gourmet item. The flesh can offer a full range of value added products by processing further into secondary methods such as marinating or smoking the fish.

Arctic char has a similar market as the more available, visible and better-known Atlantic salmon and trout, thus consequently is a species that have had difficulty gaining market share. According to Mintel's Global New Products Database (2019), a total of 13 food products that contain Arctic Char as an ingredient to processed foods, were launched worldwide between the period of January 2014 and April 2018. Out of the 13 products, 3 were new product launches, and 10 were of new variety/range extension launch types. In addition, three of the products were from within the pet food category and one was an Arctic char mousse product.

Top countries to launch Arctic Char products were Austria, United States and Denmark. The top companies and their brands were Hink (Hink Wien), Nestlé Purina PetCare (Purina Beyond Wild, Purina Beyond Grain Free) and the Universal Fish Company (Norven).

Number of products launched worldwide containing Arctic Char (January 2014 - April 2019) by product item count (total=13), historical
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  • Austria: 5
  • United States: 2
  • Denmark: 1
  • France: 1
  • Finland: 1
  • Poland: 1
  • Sweden: 1
  • Ukraine: 1

Source: Mintel, 2019

Global companies and their brand(s) for Arctic Char product launches (January 2014 - April 2019) by product item count, historical
Company Brand(s) Country Launched item count
Hink Hink Wien Austria 3
Nestlé Purina PetCare Purina Beyond Wild, Purina Beyond Grain Free Unted States 2
Universal Fish Company Norven Ukraine 1
Lidl WH Noröanfiskur Denmark 1
Alpenlachs Soravia Alpenlachs Austria 1
Eishken Estate Eishken Estate Austria 1
ICA ICA Sweden 1
Hätälä Hätälä Finland 1
Le Fumet des Dombes Le Petit Fumé France 1
Champion Petfoods Orijen Poland 1
Total sample size 13 13 13
Source: Mintel, 2019
Top positioning claims on products containing Arctic Char ingredients (January 2014 - April 2019) by product item count, historical
Description of this image follows.
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  • No additives/preservatives: 5
  • Eco-friendly package: 3
  • Pet - Adult: 2
  • Low/no/reduced allergen: 2
  • Cobranded: 2
  • GMO free: 1
  • Brain/nervous system: 1
  • Cardio/heart health: 1
  • Microwaveable: 1
  • Low/no/reduced fat: 1
  • Functional - other: 1

Source: Mintel, 2019

New product examples - Arctic char

Icelandic Arctic Char Fillet
Source: Mintel 2018
Company Lidl
Brand WH Norðanfiskur
Category Processed fish, meat and egg products
Country Denmark
Related claims Low/no/reduced fat, ethical- sustainable (habitat/resources)
Launch type New product
Date published December 2018
Price in US dollars 8.35

The fish comes from Iceland's clean water, which is perfect for farming, is said to be one of the finest fish according to gourmets, and to be similar to salmon but grows slower and has a firmer texture. The deep frozen fish with skin can be prepared in the oven or grill, and retails in a 250 gram (g) pack bearing the Green Keyhole logo.

Young Chars in Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil
Source: Mintel 2018
Company Hink
Brand Hink Wein
Category Processed fish, meat and egg products
Country Austria
Related claims Cobranded
Launch type New variety/range extension
Date published July 2018
Price in US dollars 17.52

This product retails in a 115g pack. According to the manufacturer, the product was produced with a cooperation with Eishken Estate and Fandler.

Arctic Char & Spinach Recipe Paté Natural Cat Food
Source: Mintel 2018
Company

Nestlé Purina PetCare

Brand Purina Beyond Grain Feed
Category Pet Food/cat food wet
Country United States
Related claims No additives/preservatives, low/no/reduced allergen, Ethical – environmentally, Pet - adult
Launch type New variety/range extension
Date published December 2017
Price in US dollars 1.09

Purina Beyond Grain Free Arctic Char & Spinach Recipe Paté Natural Cat Food is free of corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. It is formulated to meet the nutritional level established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) cat food nutrient profiles for the maintenance of adult cats. The product contains arctic char as number one ingredient and retails in a 3-oz. recyclable pack.

Conclusion

Arctic char has a similar market as the more available, visible and better-known Atlantic salmon and trout family, thus consequently is a species that has had difficulty gaining market share. The development of promoting 'Arctic char' as a niche market (which many Canadian companies have tried and have been unsuccessful) may prove beneficial for Arctic char producers. With the market still being relatively small, there is ample opportunity to expand. By raising awareness, especially through the promotion of the indigenous story backing up best practices and sustainability with catching this species wild in its natural eco-environment - it is believed that there is enough demand for profitability mostly within North America, France and other regional areas within Nordic countries like Sweden or Switzerland.

Resources

Customized Report Services – Global demand for Arctic char fish species
Global Analysis Report

Prepared by: Erin-Ann Chauvin, Laurie Bernardi, Kris Clipsham and Hongli Wang, Market Analysts

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2019).

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