Products and processing

With quality as the overarching element, Icelandic seafood products and processing methods combine tradition and market trends at each time. Initially simply dried or salted for preservation, a new technology later saw the bulk of the catch quick-frozen while in current times the emphasis has increasingly been on delivering fresh products, often dispatched by air freight.

Flexibility in production and the ability to adjust to individual needs has provided seafood producers in Iceland with a competitive edge, often leading to considerably higher prices per unit of weight. Driven by the financial incentive, products of different species are shipped to various markets depending on price.

Constant development

The changes in disposition of each species from one year to another are a testimony to market trends and conditions. Over a longer period, this reflects changes in processing technology and the economic performance of each processing sector.

Changes in modern transport and logistics have paved the way for faster means for exports of fresh fish. Products can now reach a destination in the U.S. by air within 24 hours of catch while container vessels can deliver fresh products to the European continent within 96 hours of catch. Improvements in handling and cooling of the fish and its products, the shelf of fresh products has been increased drastically.

In the pelagic sector the ratio of products for human consumption has been growing in recent year. This change rests on the improvement in the cooling of the catch on board the vessels in order to bring better raw material a shore. In the fish meal production the carbon footprint has been reduced by the electrification of the production in the recent years, reducing the environmental impact of the production. 

Stable share of frozen products

Despite this advance, the proportion of fresh products in overall exports has remained almost unchanged. Almost half of the total export still remains frozen products.

Salted products, most of which is based on traditional processing methods established centuries ago and primarily sold to Mediterranean countries, has somewhat declined and is currently around 10% of exported seafood value.  Dried products amount to around 5% of the export value while fish meal and fish oil respectively account for around 15%.