A tradition of quality seafood products

Vesteraalens AS hopes to establish the leading value chain for cod and other white fish

Rasmus Falck
Oslo

canned fish products

Photo: Vesteraalens AS
Vesteraalens sells “prima kvalitet” canned fish balls.

Vesteraalens Canning Factory was founded by Georg Ellingsen in Sortland in 1912. With its location in Vesterålen in northern Norway and perfect conditions for marine life, the company soon became famous for its canned fish products. The company produced supplies for Roald Amundsen’s 1918-22 expedition through the Arctic Northwest Passage, and its fish balls soon became a household product.

Among the most dramatic events in the history of the factory was a fire in 1991 that resulted in a shutdown of the factory. Norway Foods, the owner at the time, proposed moving seafood production permanently to Sweden, but permission was not granted. In 2009, production was again stopped, the Norwegian people protested, groups were created, newspaper articles were written, and eventually the people won. Local owners reopened the factory and will open a new factory next year.

The new owner’s goal is to satisfy customers demanding seafood of optimal quality and thorough documentation. The product must be manufactured with a minimum of energy consumption and without artificial additives and must be traceable throughout the entire value chain, from the catch to the customer. All activity must be based on respect for fishing quotas and regulations that the authorities lay down for fisheries. One general goal is that the entire fish shall be used in edible products and other applications.

The company’s omega-3 oil in stylish glass bottles is of the finest quality and produced for demanding customers. The new consumer product was just launched. There are also products for food production, namely as an ingredient in food for babies and as a food supplement. According to studies, we need to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids as part of our diets. Cod-liver oil may also have some important therapeutic properties. It is thought to help relieve joint stiffness associated with arthritis, have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, and help repair wounded teeth, nails, hair, and skin.

The company has its own laboratory—a work environment used to perform scientific research, experiments, and measurements under controlled circumstances. The development of new high-quality products requires high-level skills, and Vesteraalens possesses these skills. They have three employees who are directly associated with research and development. In the new factory, they will use modern state-of-the-art facilities designed for future-oriented activity. In addition to modern production facilities, there will be a new information center for visitors. Here they will present the company’s 105-year history. There will also be a food-tasting counter and a retail sales outlet for fresh fish products.

It is the abundant supply of fresh fish that is so important for the quality and hence the success of Vesteraalens. Because of its unique location, the company can collect cod and livers directly from the boats so they are fresh and can be processed within a very short period of time.

Through strategic cooperation with selected partners, the company’s vision is to establish the world’s leading value chain for cod and other white fish.

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 12, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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